Merrimack’s Marching Orders: Strike Up a Band

Merrimack College is recruiting students for its first-ever marching band with plans to debut during the institution’s 2020 Homecoming Weekend. The new marching band will be a staple at college events such as football games where it will perform to promote the Merrimack spirit.

  • Merrimack College is starting a marching band with plans to be on the field by Homecoming.
    Merrimack College is starting a marching band with plans to be on the field by Homecoming.

The band is expected to assemble for intensive training on its music, marching and team-building about the same time athletes arrive on campus next summer.

The marching band will add to the robust list of opportunities already available to musicians. “Really, the music has blossomed over the last 10 years at Merrimack,” said Director of Campus Music Activities Hugh Hinton. 

Opportunities for musicians to perform already include a pep band that plays at College sporting events, the concert choir which performs on- and off-campus, a jazz ensemble that regularly has guest professionals join in performances, the schola and three a cappella groups with up to 18 members in each.

“A capella is extremely popular,” Hinton said.

The school has also upgraded its music facilities and practice rooms.

The College recently passed a formulated bachelor of arts in music that builds on the many music courses and music minor already offered at Merrimack.

“I’m really proud that we are offering music lessons on campus now, across all instruments; strings, piano, voice, guitar, winds, brass, percussions,” Hinton said. “Just about any instrument students would like to study.”

As an NCAA Division I school, the College will be able to offer personalized scholarships to marching band musicians as a recruiting tool.

Laura Pruett, an associate professor of music and the music program director; and Paul Geresy, director of bands and jazz ensemble, are leading the charge and looking forward to welcoming students to engage in this new opportunity. 

“Recruitment is going to be our biggest push over the next few months,” Pruett said. “It’s an incredible opportunity; brand new instruments, new uniforms and being founding members of this central figure in our institution. I think it’s a really attractive thing for kids to do.”

Pruett and Geresy need to recruit as many as 100 musicians. They auditioned their first potential recruit during a recent college open house. They plan to continue during future open houses and accepted students days.

There are not many NCAA Division I schools of Merrimack’s size with marching bands, so it will be a signature piece for the College and a sign of its growth, Pruett said.

As part of their work, Pruett and Geresy need to buy instruments, design uniforms and choreograph routines, all while collaborating with the Pep Club and the Merrimack Dance Team.

They have already begun their research into how they want to design the marching band with Geresy as the director. They recently attended the New England Marching Band Championship at Lawrence High School to see the variations on how bands are assembled.

“As part of our observations, we noticed how instrumentation played an important role in the quality of the sound, from the balance of winds and brass to the use of electronics on the field,” Pruett said.

They also studied the before-and-after aspect of performances during which musicians have to stage their equipment for quick access before taking the field and then get out of the way quickly so the teams can return to the field.

They even compared uniforms to see what looks good to fans in the stands.

Pruett sees the College support for a marching band as an affirmation of the importance of liberal arts at Merrimack.

“I think this is a reflection on the hard work of the faculty and students over the past several years,” Geresy said. “To be getting the support we are receiving makes us incredibly excited for the future.”