The Spartan Marching Band has a new director. Meet the new guy behind the baton who will lead 300 Spartan musicians: David Thornton during what has turned out to be a very busy summer for a variety of reasons.
Jamie Paisley: This has been the summer of madness for you because of many different fronts. Not only being named new Spartan Marching Band director and Symphony Band director, but also other events have been kind of converging at the same time.
David Thornton: That's correct! There's been alot going on with the job transition obviously which I'm incredibly excited about. My wife and I just had our first child at the end of April. So, we have a nine-week old at home, her name is Taylor, and she's doing great. And we're also in the middle of trying to close on a new house. So, there's a lot of things happening. All good things and we're very, we're feeling very fortunate.
JP: In terms of your association with MSU and the College of Music, the most high profile thing is with Spartan Marching Band, but there is also that bit that I just mentioned a second ago, the Symphony Band as well. How much do you kinda ride that line between the two of those?
DT: I think they're both incredibly important and both equal components to my job. I take the Concert Band component of my job, if you would, very seriously and I'm really looking forward to being able to lead this terrific group and make some really terrific music this coming fall.
JP: Are you also at all kind of doing pedagogy in terms of conducting?
DT: Yeah, I teach. My new duties will involve me teaching the spring semester conducting class. So, our Music Ed. majors and our composition students have an opportunity to take two semesters of conducting and so I'll be doing the second semester of that as well.
JP: Any specific year requirements for that?
DT: Yeah, they're rising Juniors in their Music Ed. program and so,
JP: That- That seems about the right time.
DT: Right. Exactly. So in addition to all of that, I'm also the director of the Spartan Brass that deals with the athletic band. So we play at volleyball, and hockey, and basketball games and so [it] makes for an exciting year, for sure.
[The MSU Symphony Band playing John Mackey's Aurora Awakes]
JP: In terms of students that are part of the Marching Band, they don't have to be music majors at that point. What does that break down to?
DT: I think you could say that there's about... we have about 30 or 40 music majors, so that's about 10% of the ensemble. You know, most of our students come from all areas of campus. All different colleges, different, they have a variety of interests and what they're studying. It's an eclectic group. It's a very smart group. We're really proud of our students, they're all really great students and they're really involved in all of the other facets of campus as well.
JP: You're coming into the Marching Band leadership position at a time when they're a big microscope on the whole community based on what had happened a few months ago with a controversy that got a lot of press about your predecessor, and colleague, and friend: John Madden. Has that been addressed?
DT: I think that what we're doing is we're celebrating John's career and we're happy for him in his retirement and we're looking forward to continuing to being the best band that we have, that we can be here at the university and continuing to be a great ambassador for the community, and the football team, and, you know, MSU in general. You know, this is a real honor. I've been telling people this is a dream job, which I really believe that. And I'm really humbled by the opportunity and looking forward to working with our great students and the great, you know, community here at MSU, and Go Green!
David Thornton officially took over the reins of the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band, Spartan Brass, and Symphony Band on June 14th. More information on Thornton can be found at the MSU College of Music website music.msu.edu