With a new football season comes new performances from the University of New Mexico’s Spirit Marching Band (SMB). This year the band’s halftime show will incorporate music from icons such as Maynard Ferguson and Aretha Franklin.

“Each year, we strive to bring different music to the field,” said Dr. Chad Simons, associate director of bands at UNM. “We look forward to presenting entertaining and tuneful charts that our audience will recognize and enjoy.”

Since the start of band camp on Aug. 10, the band has been training new members and incorporating them into the band’s ensemble. Simons said one of the first challenges is training new members from diverse backgrounds to perform according to UNM SMB customs.



“To get everybody in a short period of time to pick up our methods of doing things from those wide varying backgrounds and experiences is a bit of challenge the first couple of weeks,” Simons said.

Once new members are caught up to speed, the band begins practicing its new performances. While the band plays popular songs in the stands during time outs and commercial breaks during football games, the halftime show is its most elaborate performance, often featuring choreographed marching timed to the rhythm of the song.

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By Tyler Mitchell/ @DailyLobo/ Daily Lobo

Director Chad Simons works with the UNM Spirit Band on Wednesday Aug. 22, 2018.

Music from pop, soul and jazz artists will be included in this year’s shows with Maynard Ferguson tunes giving the trumpet section a chance to shine. Ferguson was a Canadian trumpeter and band leader known for inspiring younger trumpeters and for playing the theme, “Gonna Fly Now,” from the 1976 movie “Rocky.”

UNM junior and SMB drum major Sarah Griego said that the Ferguson portion of the halftime show will be primarily focused on the trumpet section.

“We have about 22 players and they’re all very strong in their assigned parts,” Griego said.

In addition to preparing and practicing new halftime shows, the band also organizes and hosts the Zia Marching Band Fiesta every Fall. The Zia Fiesta is a competition for New Mexico high school marching bands. This October will be its 41st year.

Simons said that the format of the fiesta has changed slightly based on the needs of the region.

“We’ve changed some of the ways that we order the performances and we’ve added a new non-competitive track that bands can come into and participate in,” Simons said. “So we’re trying to be responsive to regional directors telling us what kind of event they like to support and be a part of.”

Another aspect of the Zia Fiesta is recruiting. Griego said that competing high schoolers get a chance to see what being in a college level band is like.

“It’s an excellent representation of the program that we have here, it’s kind of like free advertising for the marching band, like hey, come to UNM — we have a great school, we have a great music program, we have a great community,” Griego said.

The UNM SMB’s first performance will be Saturday, Sept. 1 at the UNM vs. Incarnate Word football game at 6 p.m.

Tom Hanlon is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @TomHanlonNM.