Iowa State Marching Band awarded prestigious Sudler Trophy

The Cyclone Marching Band performs before the start of the Iowa State- UNI game on Saturday, Sept. 2. The Cyclones defeated the Panthers 42-24.

Zach Streuber

A few days before Iowa State’s homecoming football game, students scramble around painted turf making sure to line up in the right formation.

The whistle blows and the director raises his hands. He suddenly drops them with a swift motion and 300 instruments point upward to the sky.

This is the Iowa State University Cyclone Football ‘Varsity’ Marching Band, the other Iowa State team that will perform Saturday.

Last December, the Iowa State marching band was announced as the recipient of a prestigious award. This weekend, the award is finally going to be theirs.

The Sudler Trophy is what some call the Heisman trophy of marching band. In fact, the trophy is made by the same people that produce the Heisman.

It is given out on a biannual basis and is a traveling award, meaning a school can only have it for the year, and recognizes the schools that are of the highest musical standards as well as have a strong, rich history of excellence.

To receive the Sudler Trophy, one must contribute to the advancement of performance standards across the nation. A university can only receive the award once, and only 30 have been previously awarded to schools in its history.

Getting selected for the Sudler Trophy is the result of decades, and in the case of Iowa State, over a century of consistent quality.

“The band has had a history of excellence, they are an extremely musical ensemble … with a high degree of musicianship,” Michael R. Golemo, director of bands at Iowa State, said.

The members of the band are what Christian Carichner, interim marching band director, said are central to its achievements. 

“[The judges] are evaluating not only today’s success of the marching band but everything that came before it, so all the past directors, all the past students and alumni,” Carichner said. “It’s kind of a recognition of all the Cyclone spirit that they have.”

On Saturday, those who have previously been instrumental in the success of the marching band will also be recognized. Additionally, a dozen former band directors and assistant band directors will receive a plaque from the Sudler committee and eight decades of alumni will be playing in the band.  

On Thursday, the ISU marching band was recognized with a proclamation by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“It’s a huge accomplishment, because it is only something that you can get once as a college marching band and for it to be awarded, it just speaks to the value that the band is really as awesome as I thought it was,” said Rebecca Flicher, a fifth-year senior who also acts as a student-staff member in the marching band.

Flicher has been with the band for all five years and has enjoyed seeing the band improve.

“Everyone is so excited about it and the atmosphere is great because we have all worked hard for this,” Flicher said.

The marching band practices Monday through Friday on a field beside the communications building in the final few hours of the afternoon. Often the band members are playing on the weekends or at evening games in Hilton.

“We put in a lot of time and make a lot of sacrifice to represent the university in the right way,” Carichner said.

Junior Alex McMullen, bass drum section leader, sees marching band as a very close-knit group that grows stronger together through the constant work they put in.

When they are not performing at Iowa State, they often travel to other venues to play at high schools and other universities. The band also does a lot of additional activities, often helping to instruct middle and high school students and playing for Iowa State events. All those performances, rehearsals and activities end up uniting the students.

“At the end of the day, we are all together, all a family,” McMullen said. “We establish these really close bonds with one another and we really have a close relationship at the end of the day with each other.”

The marching band also has a close relationship with another successful Iowa State program – the football team.

“We have an awesome relationship with the football team,” Carichner said. “Coach [Matt] Campbell is a huge supporter of the band, and Jamie Pollard is one of the biggest supporters of the band that we have ever had.”

The marching band taught the football players the fight song at the beginning of the year and Campbell recently started a new tradition of singing the alma mater with the cheerleaders, the dance squad and the band.

“They come at the end of every game and come sing ‘The Bells of Iowa State’ with us, and it goes to show that we both respect each other and, winning or losing, they know we are always cheering them on,” Flicher said.

The success the football team is having is also having an effect on members of the band. A potential postseason game means the marching band will perform for a much larger audience than just Iowa State fans.

“We go out there and we are the logo and represent this university in a very public way,” Carichner said. “That’s a huge responsibility and I feel very confident that these are exactly the kind of ambassadors that Iowa State wants out in the community.”

With a national trophy in tow and a promising football team, Carichner and the ISU marching band are prepared to be the biggest ambassadors that Iowa State has seen in years.