There is a season
What better time to catch up with the University of Michigan Marching Band (MMB) than on the eve of the infamous rivalry showdown with Ohio State on Nov. 30, 2019? The game marks the last home football contest in Michigan Stadium for the decade.
MMB director John Pasquale is the one in charge of these marching musicians now, following in the hallowed footsteps (bootsteps?) of legendary predecessor William Revelli and his successors. Pasquale is a tuba player with three college degrees, and though his only other professional gig was teaching public school outside Dallas, he was made for the MMB. As an international conductor, author, and lecturer, Pasquale holds the Donald R. Shepherd Chair in Conducting at U-M. He teaches classes in rehearsal pedagogy and aural analysis of ensemble sound.
As the especially “weather-centric” 2019 football season comes to a close (torrential rainstorms, blizzards, wind, etc.), we are using this episode to crash a practice and get a tiny taste of life amid the elements in the MMB. On this particular evening, leftover snow from an unseasonably aggressive blizzard lines the perimeter of the field.
In the conversation here, Pasquale’s passion for teaching is palpable, his respect for Michigan students is sincere, and his drive to excel is unwavering.Pasquale also talks about the heartbreaking loss of Maggie St. Clair, the MMB’s longtime director of administration. The beloved St. Clair died suddenly on Nov. 24, 2018, the morning of the Ohio State game. She had been with the MMB for more than 30 years. The band carried on in Columbus that day, thanks to the support of their marching band compatriots both at OSU and around the world, Pasquale says. In September, the MMB dedicated a “Mary Poppins”-themed program (her favorite) to St. Clair. The Maggie St. Clair Marching Band Scholarship Fund was established with a lead gift from Donald R. Shepherd in honor of St. Clair’s dedication and love for the MMB and its members.
Pasquale also shares insights about the remarkable poise demonstrated by 2018-19 drum major Kelly Bertoni under pressure. Bertoni is the 55th Michigan student to serve in the role, and, it should be noted “is a really nice person,” according to our student receptionist at Michigan News. (We didn’t call her out by name in the audio here, so I wanted to give Bertoni a proper shoutout.)
We’ve done plenty of deep and broad stories about the band’s history and legacy at several U-M publications over the years, including How we went blue, Strike up the band, and Revelli: The long note. This podcast is strictly for fun. Pure sugar.