Marching Golden Flashes Celebrate 90 Years
The marching band has thrilled audiences for 90 years.
At Kent State University, the beat certainly has gone on — for 90 years in fact. While Kent State celebrates its Centennial, the Kent State Marching Golden Flashes is celebrating its own milestone this year — its 90th anniversary. The band’s presence at university events has changed throughout its history, but has always played a major part in the lives of its members and in increasing school spirit.
Lisa (Hicks) Dael, ’91, a member of the Marching Golden Flashes from 1986 – 90, says it’s a humbling experience to have been a part of something that is now 90 years old.
“I’m really proud to be a part of the tradition,” Dael says. “It means a lot to be a part of that history.”
The marching band’s history began in 1919, when music department director Ann Maud Shamel organized a “field band.” Those were humble beginnings. In 1920, when the first Kent State football team played with equipment, the field band performed in the stands for one game. As years passed, the band re-organized itself and professor Roy Metcalf became the director in 1929.
When Metcalf took charge, only 20 students participated in the band. And in those days, band uniforms were not considered proper attire for women, so only males could participate. However, in 1940, Metcalf created the “Twin Bands”: one all-female band and one all-male band.
The Twin Bands were disassembled in the late ’50s, after Edward Masters took over as the director. Under Masters’ guidance, the band performed its first 15-minute half-time show. Masters led the band for more than 20 years — during that time, he emphasized rehearsing music and produced a record for the university’s Bicentennial anniversary.
The directors following Masters helped shape today’s Marching Golden Flashes. They introduced a new style of marching, debuted new uniforms, secured scholarships for students and even survived the program being cut twice — once in 1979 and once in 1992.
Today, under the supervision of Scott Curfman, director of athletic bands, the marching band boasts 115 members, takes part in pre-game festivities, plays in the stands and puts on the halftime show for every home football game.
“The marching band’s presence is an integral part of the game day atmosphere. It provides some support to the cheerleaders, it creates interest among the fans and it motivates the team through the energy it gives the fans,” Curfman says.
Curfman says the marching band will recognize its anniversary at its annual indoor concert, but will focus most of its attention toward celebrating the university’s Centennial.
“The band adds lifeblood to the university events and community,” Curfman says. “Without the band, it’s just another event.”
While the marching band adds to university events, it also contributes to the university experience for its members.
Dael says participating in the band was the reason why she stayed at Kent State.
“I was really shy, and the band helped me make friends,” Dael says. “I was in marching band in high school and decided to go to Kent State after I auditioned and was accepted for the band. It was a way to get involved in school and meet friends, and I really enjoyed music, so it was a great social outlet.”
When Dael participated in the band, the members practiced four days a week. The time commitment helped Dael make lifelong friends.
One of the friends she made includes her husband, Kevin Dael, ’90. Lisa, who played the tenor saxophone, and Kevin, whose instrument was the clarinet, decided they harmonized well The couple was introduced by a friend, and, while she thought he was nice, he later impressed her by walking her and a friend home to Engleman Hall after the annual Band Banquet, despite living on the other side of campus.
“I thought it was so sweet that this guy, who lived on the other side of campus, would walk us home,” Dael says.
Even today, Dael stays in touch with the friends she made in the band. Marching band alumni can re-connect with each other through the Marching Band Alumni Chapter, which hosts events for members.
Tim McDonnell , ’90, the acting president of the marching band alumni chapter and Marching Golden Flashes member who played trombone from 1986 – 90, says the chapter holds an annual event at Homecoming for alumni to play in the parade, attend the game and play at halftime.
“The marching band was just a great experience. It’s a way for people to learn discipline, and it gives people great leadership skills,” McDonnell says. “It’s pretty amazing that the marching band has gone on for 90 years considering that it was canceled for about a year and then it was brought back thanks to students who were active in making their voices heard.”
Jeff Frank , ’03, who played baritone in the band from 1995 – 2001, shares McDonnell’s amazement.
“It’s great that the band has reached 90 years considering that there were times when it was threatened with being cut. The fact that it remains is pretty special,” Frank says.
By Lindsay Kuntzman