College football season is one of my favorite parts of the year. Hours upon hours of great games every weekend, spectacular highlights, sacred gameday traditions, etc. As enjoyable as all those things are, I’d be remiss not to mention college marching bands, an integral part of the gameday experience for many of us.
As an undergraduate student, I was fortunate enough to spend a year with the Michigan State Spartan Marching Band. It was my first marching experience, as my high school did not field a football team or a marching band. My time in the SMB ended up being one of my favorite college experiences, and I regretted waiting until my junior year to give it a chance.
During my time at MSU, I became aware of this particular musical connection. First, here is the MSU Alma Mater, performed by the Spartan Marching Band.
Now, here’s the sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor, by Donizetti.
The similarities are not exactly subtle, are they? In the mid-1920s, Bernard Traynor, a football coach at Michigan State College, composed new lyrics to accompany the melody from the Lucia sextet. Following a vote by the student body in 1949, Traynor’s text paired with Donizetti’s melody was officially adopted as MSU’s Alma Mater.