“The Victors” is more than just a fight song — it’s often how people are first introduced to the University. But how often it is played, at what tempo and how it is arranged with other songs are all decisions made by a variety of people. The coordination of music at University sporting events is a complicated affair.
At a mixed lecture and open-table discussion hosted by the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at the Hatcher Graduate Library Wednesday night, more than 100 University students and Ann Arbor residents interacted with a panel well-versed in college athletics and music.
Panelists included LSA junior Madison Ristovski, a Michigan women’s basketball player; John Pasquale, director of the Michigan Marching Band; John U. Bacon, published author and Educational Studies lecturer at the University; composer and lyricist Dave Barrett; and Mark Clague, a professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Pasquale said his job as band director is more than just controlling the music: It is about controlling the psychology of the crowd.
“We support the athletes by keeping the audience engaged,” Pasquale said. “Do they really care if I play ‘Take On Me’? Not really. What they do care about is the audience cheering them on.”
Kinesiology senior Joe Kerridge, who plays on the football team, agreed with Pasquale.
“When you get out onto the field, the canned music and the band is great for us,” Kerridge said. “But once the game starts, I am pretty sure I can speak for most of the football players: We don’t really care what plays as long as it’s loud in there.”
The panelists discussed the balance between the marching band’s playing traditional songs versus the loudspeaker system’s playing popular rock and rap songs.
Bacon and Pasquale agreed that piped-in music was important to keep band music fresh and to appeal to a younger crowd. Pasquale mentioned that it wasn’t a battle between the University Athletic Department and the marching band.
“Understand this: When they play it, they ask us first,” he said.
Bacon did mention that he believed piped-in music should be played less.
“What you’re selling at Football Saturdays, I’m sorry, is not Beyoncé or Seven Nation Army,” Bacon said. “It’s the Michigan Marching Band, the team, the fans — that goes back a century. What we’re trying to do on a Football Saturday is to step back in time to the experience of your grandparents and great-grandparents.”
The panelists also discussed the history and importance of playing the Star-Spangled Banner before games. Ristovski said it gave her a lot of pride to hear it before every game.
“You think about all the people that have fought and died; for me, to be at the University of Michigan playing basketball gives you pride but also a lot of gratitude,” she said.
Pasquale said the anthem was a special moment for fans to bond.
“It’s the only time that everybody is on the same page,” he said.
The panel also focused on composer David Barrett, an Ann Arborite who composed the famous “One Shining Moment” in 1987. The song has been used as the theme song for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four for 27 years.
“Strange as it may sound, I wrote the entire lyrics on a napkin while waiting for a friend to show up to brunch,” Barrett said. “And then I rushed home and wrote the song in twenty minutes.”