The Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band has reached another recruiting milestone as more than 100 new freshmen will join them this fall, according to Director of Bands Dr. Jeffrey Mathews. This is the third consecutive year the band has recruited more than 100 new members.
“The reputation of the Spirit of Northwestern for its size and quality are extremely attractive to high school band students,” said Mathews, who is in his fifth year as director of bands. “The quality also catches the eye of high school band directors that are in a position to advise their students about choosing a university. Many of our students are recommended by band directors that are not alumni but appreciate the product we are turning out and the education we are providing.”
The 315-member Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band has been a finalist for the Sudler Trophy, an award to identify and recognize collegiate marching bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life. NSU’s band participated in the New Year’s Day Parade and Festival in London and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland. Northwestern State’s band was named one of the top eight in the country a college oriented website. Mathews was selected for inclusion in the 19th Annual 50 Band Directors Who Make a Difference Issue of School Band and Orchestra Magazine.
The recruitment process is year round and takes band directors throughout Louisiana, Texas and Florida. Several international students from Colombia have also joined the band. Mathews said alumni play a major role in recruiting.
“Our alumni believe in Northwestern State and they believe in the band program,” said Mathews. “They are some of our best recruiters.”
Among the new recruits is Chloe Farrar, who will graduate from Airline High School in Bossier City later this month. She said NSU alumni helped recruit her to the Spirit of Northwestern.
“All of the band directors that I’ve had were a part of the SON, so I’ve heard a lot about the reputation,” said Farrar. “I know that the band is known nationwide and has always been known for their talent. This did influence me because I wanted to go to a school where I could not only pursue my degree, but also be a part of a great band program that is known for their excellence.”
Farrar plans to major in biology with a biomedical concentration. The band includes students from a variety of majors. Most band members major in something other than music or music education.
Mathews said the band uses a four-pronged approach to recruiting students that includes personal visits to high schools across the region and hosting events throughout the year to bring high school band students to the NSU campus. The band also has an extensive outreach program that involves taking the band on the road to high-profile football games, appearing as a guest band at high school marching contests from Dallas to Baton Rouge and maintaining a robust social media presence. The final part of the plan is developing and maintaining alumni relationships.
Mathews said the recruiting success of the band is a team effort. Assistant Directors Dan McDonald and Oliver Molina play a pivotal role as do Color Guard Instructor Estelle Murr and Demon Dazzler Instructor Renee Oates. The faculty of the music department and the NSU Office of University Recruiting also play an important role in the effort.
“The band directors travel extensively from New Orleans to Shreveport in Louisiana and from Houston to Austin to Dallas to Longview in Texas visiting with band students at many high schools,” said Mathews. “Young Performers Day, our annual Classic on the Cane Marching Contest, and our summer camps bring thousands of band students to campus each year. Many students find us because their band director was an alumnus and continues to support NSU and the band program.”
One of those outreach programs, an appearance at Parkway’s Marching Contest, got Farrar interested in Northwestern State.
“I chose NSU because I remember sitting in the stands at Parkway High School’s Marching Contest my freshman year, and when the Spirit of Northwestern marched out on the field for exhibition, I fell in love,” said Farrar, who has been Airline’s head drum major for the last two years. “Ever since then, I’ve kept up with the band on social media and attended some of their camps and came to love the people and atmosphere surrounding the band. Dr. Mathews also promised that I could still pursue my love of music whole-heartedly and my degree at the same time.”