New marching band will play basketball halftime shows


Shocker Sound performs Feb. 27 at Charles Koch Arena.

Wichita State will have a marching band for the first time since 1986.

The university announced Thursday that the Shocker Sound Machine will launch this fall, performing halftime routines at four men’s and four women’s basketball games this season, as well as at other campus events.

Director of Bands Timothy Shade described the Shocker Sound Machine, an extension of the Shocker Sound pep band, as a “high-energy, high-octane” ensemble.

“Three to seven minutes of just, you can’t relax. That’s what it’s going to be,” Shade said.

Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, director of the music school, said WSU’s lack of a marching program has been a detriment to recruiting.

“We in the school of music estimate that we probably lose 20 to 30 students a year who don’t even apply to WSU because we don’t have a marching band,” Sternfeld-Dunn said.

Most marching bands perform at football games. The spacial limitations of an indoor venue will force the band to adopt a different approach.

“A basketball court is so much smaller,” Sternfeld-Dunn said. “What that means is it’s going to be really high-energy, really fast-moving, a lot of entertainment and fun to watch.”

“This is not going to be your grandmother’s marching band.”

Factoring in the cost of uniforms, instruments, equipment, a new, a part-time assistant director of bands, two graduate teaching assistants, and other expenses, Sternfeld-Dunn estimated the price tag to be roughly $320,000.  He said $200,000-$250,000 of that will come from “emergency contingency funds that were being held over in the president’s office.”

“We scheduled a meeting with the president, and we presented a version of the Shocker Sound Machine that was sort of your bare-bones, we could do this on a shoestring budget, here’s how we would do it,” Sternfeld-Dunn said. “And the president listened and was excited, and he said ‘I want you to come back with a real budget of how to do this right.’”

After this school year, the band will become a one-credit-hour course instead of an extracurricular activity. Members of the Shocker Sound pep band currently receive stipends for playing at games. That will no longer be the case when the band becomes a course.

To combat the financial burden this could place on musicians, Sternfeld-Dunn said the university hopes to provide scholarships for 100 students — paying or partially paying for the single credit hour.

“My goal is, in the next five years, I’d like to see an increase of 30-50 new majors,” Sternfeld-Dunn said. “That’s certainly an aspirational goal, but that’s what I’m shooting for.”

He said he also hopes to engage non-music majors.

“We already have non-major ensembles, and we do have non-majors involved in that, but I’d love it if, you know, we have 15,000 students, I’d love if 5,000 students were participating in a music program.”