90 years of the beat for 90 Flashes

Denise Wright

Marching band forms spirit, relationships

There’s something to be said for a band program that is still going strong after 90 years. The message: Its staying power comes in its ability to affect everything from morale at games to 15-year marriages.

The Kent State Marching Golden Flashes’ message continues to be delivered by the likes of its directors, alumni and its current members.

Katie Pflueger, a senior music education major and field commander for the band, said there’s a “sense of pride” that comes in being able to represent Kent State during games and band competitions.

Homecoming festivities

&bull Spirit walk starts at 5:30 p.m., Friday, departs from Manchester Field

&bull Band marches around Esplanade and begins pep rally around 6:15 p.m., Friday, Risman Plaza

&bull Homecoming parade featuring alumni and marching band starts at 10 a.m., Saturday, departs from Midway Drive and marches down State Route 59 toward Franklin Ave.

&bull Game starts at 3:30 p.m., Dix Stadium

“I think over the years, the band has really grown and become a really prominent part, like a visualization, of the university,” she said.

Matt Stemple, also a senior music education major and field commander for the band, shares in Pflueger’s pride.

“There’s a definite sense of joy in knowing you’re a part of an organization that’s been around for so long,” Stemple said. “The program has been taken away in the past, and it’s come back stronger than ever. Just knowing what the band has been through makes it a real pleasure to be a part of that today.”

A timeline on the marching band’s Web site shows just how far the band has come since being formed in 1919 by then-music department director Ann Maud Shamel. The band has progressed from playing one football game in the stands as a small “field band” in 1920 to playing its first 15-minute halftime show in 1957. As of 2004, it’s under the direction of Scott Curfland, director of athletic bands. While the band’s presence at the university has certainly changed through the years, the organization remains an active part in the lives of students, faculty and especially in the band’s current and past members.

Active alumni

Although Jeff “Jose” Frank, a 2003 gradProxy-Connection: keep-alive

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te who played baritone from 1995 to 2001, recently moved from the area to North Carolina, he still participates in alumni functions.

Aside from his plans to attend and participate in the Homecoming festivities this year, Frank is the administrator for KSUMGF Alumni, the Facebook group for Kent State band alumni.

Tim McDonnell, a 1990 graduate who played trombone for four years and currently acts as president of the Marching Band Alumni Chapter, is very active in alumni affairs – including this week’s Homecoming celebration.

The alumni chapter will meet up for a two-hour rehearsal Friday night. On Saturday, the chapter will participate in the annual tradition of marching side-by-side with the current band in the parade, attending the game and playing at halftime.

“We always have an outturn of recent graduates, and we’ve even had guys coming back with drums strapped to their hips who are like 60,” field commander Stemple said. “And those drums haven’t been used in 30 years.”

McDonnell said one of the best parts of the Homecoming events is the sense of familiarity that comes with them.

“Every year we come back, and it’s almost like nothing’s changed,” he said. “The cheers are different, other little things are different, but the spirit and enthusiasm is always the same as it was when I was in band.”

Supplementing school spirit

Frank said students and game attendees reap the benefits, too.

The band’s presence has always helped boost spirit at games, Frank said, adding that it has increased through the years with the unit’s traveling to more away games in the Flashes’ basketball and football seasons.

He said aside from the band’s performance, the group’s attendance alone adds strength in numbers.

“If you have a large group of people sitting in one section, you’re going to have a lot of noise coming from it,” Frank said. “If the band joins in a cheer, it catches on quicker.”

In addition to the cheering boost, he added that one of the most important functions of the band is making halftime more exciting.

“So many colleges and high schools are substituting halftime show marching bands with pre-recorded music and ads . but even as a fan, I prefer the live element over listening to ‘Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.'”

Pflueger and Stemple agreed that recent collaborations between the band, cheerleaders, the team mascot “Flash” and the athletic department have helped with the band’s presence at the games. Stemple added one of these collaborations comes in the form of him meeting with a game announcer and athletic directors once a week to plan coordination with the cheerleaders, video advertisements and other activities.

90 years and counting


Ann Maud Shamel establishes KSU Marching Band.


Roy D. Metcalf takes over directing the marching band, with fewer than 20 members.


The twin Bands debut. An all- women’s band performed separately and in conjunction with an all-men’s band. Both directed by Roy D. Metcalf.


Roy D. Metcalf dies July 4 and Kansas native Edward L. Masters becomes new band director. Band performs first half-time show and

puts greater emphasis on



Twin Bands were disbanded and new “unisex” band uniforms were debuted. Band records “Kent’s Golden Year” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of KSU.


The KSU Alumni Band was formed.


University President Golding cuts the Marching Band.


Michael Lee comes to Kent State as the first Director of Athletic Bands. Drum and Bugle corps style of marching is introduced to KSU.


Due to budget cuts within the School of Music, a “Sitting band” plays all home games.


Thomas Connoers becomes Director of Athletic Bands. The band takes on a new identity as the Kent State University Marching Golden Flashes.


The MGF celebrates its 80th Anniversary with the largest band in KSU history.


Scott Curfman accepts the position of Director of Athletic Bands. The Band expands on corps style of marching with high-energy drill maneuvers and music.

“I think (school spirit) has definitely increased over the years because we’re just getting more of an opportunity to incorporate the band with the sporting groups,” Stemple said.

Aaron Rex, senior music education major and field commander for the band, was in full agreement.

“Since I’ve been in the band, the (athletic) department has really taken a lot more interest in the band,” he said. “Their presence and support of us, I think, has gone up in the past few years, so that helps us do more for them.”

Bringing couples together

But the marching band has a history of helping more than the just the athletic department.

For Jamie Mosack, who played trumpet from 2000 to 2003, the band served as a gateway for meeting her husband of more than six years.

Jamie’s husband, Stephen Mosack, was her section leader when Jamie came to Kent State as a freshman.

“During rehearsals, he’d always say something like, ‘Let’s do it again for the girl in the green,'” Jamie said. “That was his way of flirting.”

Jamie said they grew closer throughout band week until one night after sectionals, when Stephen kissed her. They’ve been together ever since.

Jamie and Stephen have three boys now. The Mosacks enjoy playing trombone together for their children on Christmas and hope to have their boys join in one day.

“Band was a huge part of our lives; it was our whole life,” Jamie said. “We think it’s important to try to teach our kids, so we’re giving it a shot.”

Beyond playing at Christmas, Jamie said Stephen play trumpet in the army band, usually performing at ceremonies for fallen soldiers in Afghanistan.

Although Jamie said it’s difficult with Stephen being on active military leave, she finds comfort in the support she gets from other alumni who keep in touch.

“Once they found out Steve is gone, they call or write, step up and do whatever is needed,” she said.

Jamie said having a relationship that developed through band was a no-brainer.

“Band breeds friendships,” Mosack said. “When you throw people together like that, it’s just one of those natural occurrences.”

Ryan Weeden, who played bass drum for Kent State from 2002 to 2004, said his relationship with now-fiance, Mallory, also developed in a natural way.

Mallory played saxophone from 2003 to 2007 and said Weeden was “the drummer who was pushing me around on the field.” But through all the on-the-road games and long rehearsals, they developed a friendship that turned into more.

During a timeout at last year’s Homecoming football game, Weeden took the big step. When the band began playing Roy Orbison’s “Hey Baby” arranged by Jay Dawson, Weeden and Mallory’s song, Weeden wove through the trombone section and stopped behind Mallory.

He said he sang the song to her like he usually did, and she tried to ignore him as she usually did.

“When she turned around, I was holding a ring in front of her,” he said.

The two are getting married on Manchester Field next June.

90 years and counting

Director Curfman said the marching band has kept the celebration for its 90th anniversary rather modest, making announcements at games and paying some attention to it at an indoor concert in November .

For now, the band is focusing its efforts on the Shrek-themed Homecoming show.

“It’s a 90th birthday, and that’s a big one,” Curfman said. “But we’re looking forward to a hundred.”

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected]