University of Nevada’s Marching Band Grows

Drum major Garrett Spalka agrees- the University of Nevada’s marching band is a highly visible symbol of the University’s rapid growth. On game day, the marching band storms the field, playing the school’s fight song while cannons fire in the background. While the university has been growing by nearly 5% each year (unr.edu), the marching band is where the growth is most apparent. At football games, the band is comprised of 205 students, a huge growth since the small 80-person band Garrett Spalka joined in 2010.

When Garrett was a freshman, the band had low support. In the last five years, the band has acquired significant University and community funding. Most notable, the marching band acquired a match-donation fundraiser through the Greater Nevada Credit Union.

Because the band is expanding so quickly, the band is growing faster than the university can handle. The marching band has changed rehearsal space, using Wolf Pack Park instead of an abandoned parking lot. On game day, the band no longer fits in the band room and has to warm up outside the Virginia Street Gym. For people like Garrett, this means trying to accommodate 200 students and their instruments into spaces that were built to fit only 80.

As the marching band grows, Garrett attests that the band’s quality has improved. At the game against New Mexico earlier this season, their halftime show included cannons, fireworks, and new visuals. For Garrett, it was the first time he felt like the band was a true “big college band.” With more musicians on the field, the band is able to perform bigger shows and more challenging music.

Garrett chuckles when Paolo Zialcita asks him how long he’s been playing the drums. “I actually don’t play the drums. The drum major is actually just a title…I have to be on top of my game all the time.”

As the marching band grows, Garrett attests that the band’s quality has improved. At the game against New Mexico earlier this season, their halftime show included cannons, fireworks, and new visuals. For Garrett, it was the first time he felt like the band was a true “big college band.” With more musicians on the field, the band is able to perform bigger shows and more challenging music.

While the band is open to all majors, and the Reno community, Garrett is a music education major. He gets to use his education in the classroom out on the field, whether through conducting, interpreting music, or leading the band through challenging drill. Garrett would like to see the band in the next few years, and as the band grows, he is confident it’s popularity and skill will too. “I’d love to see us increase to 50 more people. 250 is an impressive group and for the size of the university.”

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