North Central College marching band perfects the sounds of Cardinal pride North Central College marching band perfects the sounds of Cardinal pride

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North Central College marching band perfects the sounds of Cardinal pride


Sep 07, 2018

Before classes begin, the members of the College’s marching band are practicing in the searing summer heat, perfecting their techniques and formations, all to bring the sweet sounds of Cardinal pride to Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium this fall.

North Central’s Cardinal Marching Band will take the field this season with its largest roster ever. Under the direction of Sean Kelley, assistant professor of music, the band has more than doubled its membership from 40 to 85 students over three years.

Leading one of only a handful of NCAA Division III marching bands in the nation, Kelley has proven that stellar bands aren’t exclusive to large schools. This season, the marching band is taking their performance to the next level with added props and more complex formations and music.

“North Central offers a high-quality marching band experience at a small school,” said Kelley. “But we aren’t satisfied with just having a band; our students want to be the best.”

North Central College's Sean Kelley looks out over the marching band perfecting their formations

North Central College's Sean Kelley looks out over the marching band perfecting their formations

Students are prepared to work for it as well, training over the summer and throughout the football season. Kelley works individually with students, directing them by name into formation at practices and rehearsals.

Student leadership is crucial to the band, and Kelley relies on drum majors, section leaders and color guard captains to promote a culture of excellence.

“For most students coming from high school bands, this is their chance to march,” said Kelley. “Everyone wants to make it count.”

As the band has grown, so has the variety of students involved. Only half of the members are music majors, but they all share a love of music and a passion for performing.

“In some bands students check in and check out, but not here,” said Kelley. “North Central is a special place. Students take ownership of the program and create the culture, bringing in their own ideas that we put in shows.”

While in the stands, the students serve as the pep band, playing for the fans and athletes alike.

“A lot of other schools our size are silent during games, but we don’t want that at one of ours. Our fans expect more, and we have a responsibility to live up to that,” said Kelley. “Marching band is our way of giving back to North Central.”

Sharing that game day experience is crucial to getting prospective students excited about attending North Central. They have the unique opportunity to hear not only what North Central band members have to say, but also what they can play.

North Central College's marching band prepares for the fall season

North Central College's marching band prepares for the fall season

High school students interested in marching with the Cardinals can sign up to join the band for a Saturday home game performance, practicing and playing with the pep band in the stands.

“I marched in high school, but it wasn’t like this,” said Nick Baumgartner ’20, theatre major and low brass section leader. “Everyone is here because they love it, and we all want to make the show amazing.”

To support students who dedicate their time and talent, students in athletic bands are eligible to receive a scholarship, and students of any major can qualify.

“We are in a competitive area with great musicians, and we want to meet and exceed their expectations,” said Kelley. “For every student who wants to play in a large band at a big university, there is another who wants to play at a place like North Central.”

A large part of the band’s success comes from the band’s tight-knit community and team building efforts that include bowling, movie nights and more during pre-season band camp and throughout the year.

 “It makes me proud when I walk around campus and see a group of band members hanging out and among them I can count off five to six different majors,” said Kelley. “Band is an outlet for their musicality, but it’s also their family.”

North Central College's marching band has countless practices to deliver the best performance

North Central College's marching band has countless practices to deliver the best performance