The Growth of the Pride of the Sierra
Sitting up in his chair and wearing a sharp lavender shirt, Garrett Spalka exudes the confidence of a bandleader. His hands rest on his legs, while his chin is raised into the air. He flashes his world-winning grin. There is a little fatigue underneath his eyes, which is a common symptom of his job.
Spalka, a 24 year old student at the University of Nevada, and the band have come a long way since joining the Pride of the Sierras in 2010. He has witnessed a massive growth in University of Nevada’s band program.
In 2010, the band’s membership was amounted to 90 people, but this year, the band’s population has grown to an amazing 205 members.
Nevada’s band was a “little band pretending to be a college band” according to Spalka, but now, there’s barely enough room for the band to practice. Spalka credits the massive growth of the band to the University’s support and the change of the directors.
“He knew where he wanted to take this group and so he started advertising us,” said Spalka.
The band’s director, Dr. William Plenk, started traveling all over the country recruiting some of the nation’s top musicians to play for the Pride of the Sierras. The band is looking to increase their ranks even more, citing Southern universities bands with over 300 members as influences.
The growth of the band program is putting pressure on the University to make more changes. Since 2010, the band has outgrown their rehearsal space in the Church of Fine Arts and has since moved their warm-ups outside.
Spalka is a huge advocate for having a building constructed specifically for the marching band, “Some of the major universities in the United States have marching band buildings, including some of the bands in our own conference.”
With the band looking to reach memberships soaring as high as 300 members, the band needs new space in order to make as much noise as possible.
Thanks to this growth, Wolf Pack fans can look forward to spectacular shows from the band during games. During the football game against New Mexico, the band implemented cannons and fireworks into a brand new show which was co-conducted by Spalka himself.
“We finally became the big-time marching band,” said Spalka, as he grinned cheek-to-cheek.