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The Spirit Marching Band makes its way through the UNM tailgate party before a football game in 2019. 

UNM Spirit Marching Band excels in season of rebuilding

After missing the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of New Mexico Spirit Marching Band is comprised largely of new members since sophomores, along with freshmen, have never had the opportunity to be on the field before. Nonetheless, the band has excelled in their performances at Lobos football games and looks forward to ending their season this month on a high note.

The Spirit Marching Band has approximately 90 students, almost half of which are new members, according to Associate Director of Bands Chad Simons. He’s extremely proud of the new group for managing to rebuild with such enthusiasm and care. With 15 hours of outdoor-only practice a week, Simons said it’s been no small feat bringing the band back together.

“It’s been difficult,” Simons said. “But I just want to say that I am so proud of everyone. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are.”

Simons credited the group’s drum majors Josue Hernandez and Rachael Baca — who lead the band — with much of the Spirit Marching Band’s success in such an abnormal year. Both were elected as co-drum majors at the end of 2019, but the 2021 season has been their first as drum majors since last season was canceled.

“We’re such a cohesive thing and the only way a group like this functions is if we’re all here together,” Baca said. “This has been a year of rebuilding, and they’re doing an incredible job. It’s not what we did in 2019, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be … Everyone here is an extremely hard worker and they’re here because they’re dedicated and extremely hard workers and I think it really shows in everything that they do.”

Amethyst Gallegos, a music education student and president of UNM’s branch of the National Association for Music Education, expressed their joy in returning to a live team, especially following a difficult year of isolation.

“It was very odd, especially in something like music which is so community-based, to not be around people and to focus on independent playing,” Gallegos said. “It’s so refreshing to collaborate with people, and not from home.”

In addition to regular performances at football contests, the band hosts the Zia Marching Band Fiesta, an annual competition for high school bands from New Mexico. This year’s Zia Fest was held in October and featured a performance from the Spirit Marching Band itself.

The UNM Spirit Band will end their 14-week season at a football game against Utah State University at University Stadium on Nov. 26.

Natalie Jude is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @Natalaroni

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