by Pamela Young, Published September 07, 2012
When the marching band from Eastern Michigan University takes to the field during EMU's home opener against Illinois State University, Sept. 8, fans will be treated to a new look and upbeat music.
Thanks to generous donors, the students will be decked out in new uniforms that fuse elements of a traditional military style with a more contemporary flair, accented by a darker, richer green.
"Eastern's uniforms were 16 years old, more than double the life expectancy of any marching band uniforms," said Mary Schneider, EMU director of bands and associate professor of music. "They were basically worn out."
A band uniform, which includes a jacket, pants, raincoat, hat and plume, costs $500, Schneider said. Multiply that by 190 members in the band and it would have cost the music department $150,000 to outfit members of the color guard, drum majors, twirlers and all musicians.
But, luckily for the band, Ed and Suzanne Jakeway stepped in. Ed Jakeway, an EMU Foundation emeritus trustee and 1958 alumnus, and his wife started the fundraising campaign by donating a $25,000 leadership gift toward the purchase of new uniforms.
"More than $80,000 was raised for the uniforms as part of an ongoing fundraising campaign, "said Ceci Riecker, development officer at the Foundation. "The remainder came from the president's discretionary fund."
While the uniform's design looks more contemporary, a special touch has been added to the inside of each jacket. The jackets have two embroidered athletic logos that honor the Normalites, when Eastern Michigan was known as Michigan State Normal School, and the Hurons (1929 - 1991). The Eagles logo was adopted in 1991.
"Dr. Martin requested that we find some way to pay homage to the history of the University and its alumni, so we came up with the solution of embroidering logos on the inside of the jacket," Schneider said. "We like the symbolism surrounding it and are thrilled with how it came out."
What can fans expect from the band this year?
"We will be performing six different shows this season," said Amy Knopps, director of the marching band and assistant professor of music. "Our first halftime show, which debuts Sept. 8 at EMU's Rynearson Stadium, is called, "A Celebration of the Olympic Spirit."
The band will travel to Michigan State University, Sept. 22, to perform and support the Eagles. For the Oct. 6 Homecoming game, which also is Alumni Band Day, the students will perform a "throwback" show to celebrate the 25th anniversary of EMU's victory over San Jose State in the 1987 California Bowl.
Future programs include a jazz show, the music of Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, and at the end of the season the band will take fans on a trip to the movies when it showcases music from popular adventure movies.
The Eagles will also host visiting bands from the University of Toledo (Oct. 13) and archrival Central Michigan University (Nov. 10) when those teams come to town.