Welcome to the "Spirit of the West" Marching Band at Montana State University! We believe that being a university student is much more than simply attending classes and taking exams. Our campus is vibrant with concerts, athletic events, and a host of activities that will enrich your experience while at MSU. As a member of the marching band you will be at the heart of the university’s commitment to learning, discovery, and engagement. You will perform in dozens of events for tens of thousands of people. But perhaps more importantly, you will be joining one of the largest and oldest organizations on campus with a tradition of entertainment and excellence. The marching band is open to all MSU students with high school band experience (or colorguard). We perform at all home Bobcat football games and various other events throughout the semester. A scholarship is guaranteed to all members who complete the season in good standing (details below).

The Spirit of the West is dedicated to your growth as a performing musician. Our mission is to enrich the student life of all of our members through positive production of varied and challenging music, drill, and choreography. Of course, we cannot accomplish this without the commitment of our members as well. Please review the following points before arriving on campus. All of our members are held to the same standards of practice, participation, and performance.

  1. Enroll in MUSI 155: “Spirit of the West” Marching Band. This is a graded course.
  2. Attend pre-semester band camp. Bring closed-toe sneakers, long khaki pants, music flip folder, and sun protection (as well as extra cash for supplies and a meal out). Early dorm move-in is available. 2018 Band Camp Schedule
  3. Complete the member agreement form (available through the online listserv).
  4. Contribute to the overall success of the band by attending rehearsals, preparing your part, and putting forth positive enthusiasm and effort during the season.
  5. Participate in co-curricular performances throughout the year: all home Bobcat football games--including play-off games--as well as multiple other events both on and off campus (with sufficient notice). 2018 Important Dates
  6. Return uniform and equipment at the conclusion of the season with no more than normal dirt/wear and tear.
  7. Remain positive and optimistic. It gets cold in Montana. One of the things that makes our band so special is the way we rally for each other despite the weather and despite the fact that we are very busy people!

We are looking forward to meeting you in the fall. Until then, please review the policies below and contact me with any questions that you may have.

Dr. Nathan Stark
Director of Bands
Montana State University


Band Camp

Many of us will be coming to college for the first time this fall. Some of us will be joining a marching band for the first time as well. It is a fantastic (and scary) experience to come to a new place and meet new people. But just think, in a few short weeks, you will have 170 new friends, have been all over campus, and will have performed as a member of the "Spirit of the West"!

Our season begins with a week of rehearsals and performances which occur prior to the start of the fall semester. During this time, we log almost 50% of our total hours for the entire semester. Because we learn most of our music and drill during camp, attendance is required for all members. Please refer to the camp schedule for dates and details. 

While at camp

Band members are expected to remain at camp and attend all rehearsals, sectionals, meals, and sessions during the week. Students attending orientation later in the week are excused for the essential parts of orientation. Students who desire to depart the band prior to the conclusion of camp must consult with the director before leaving. 

Wear appropriate clothing including hat, sunglasses, and closed-toe athletic shoes during camp. Regular application of sunscreen and lots of water is a must at high elevations in the summer.

See more band camp information


In addition to building the strongest band we can, we want our members to feel welcome and part of something great. Our goal is to provide excellent musical and technical instruction for all of our prospective members right from the start. For this reason, we reserve the first three days of our summer camp for tryouts. 

All members of the SotW are required to tryout for the band. Tryouts are generally informal and relfect only the BASIC skills that are expected of our members. This includes playing/spinning (small segments by memory), marching (in tempo), and demonstrating positive attitude and enthusiasm for being in the band. Results are finalized on the Tuesday of camp. All membership decisions are at the discretion of the directors.

See more tryout information


In order to receive full credit and full scholarship for participating in the band, all members must meet the attendance policy. 

  1. Rehearsals. We expect all members to attend all rehearsals. While a limited number of absences from rehearsals may be excused (with sufficient makeup), excessive absences may result in the loss of grade points, scholarship dollars, and performance privileges.
  2. Sectionals. All band members are expected to attend marching band sectionals for a minimum of 30 minutes per week.Section leaders/representatives will schedule/hold sectionals at a variety of times every week to accommodate the schedules of the members of their section.
  3. Course Conflicts. A limited number of returning members may be allowed up to one hour per week of absence due to a conflict with a course required for his/her degree. Requests for course conflicts are due on the last day of class of the prior spring semester. First year band members are not allowed any course conflicts.
  4. “Pep” Performances. We expect all members to participate in several “pep” performances every year. 
  5. Field” Performances. All members of the band are required to participate in all field performances. We perform at all home Bobcat football games.
  6. Play-off Games. The band will play at all home play-off games. Attendance requirements are determined on a game-by-game basis, but expect that we will march a field show if classes are still in session.
  7. Travel. The band may perform field shows at one or more events per season in addition to home football games. Provided that sufficient notice is provided (generally three weeks), travel is required of all band members. Transportation, meals, and lodging (if applicable) is provided to the band.
  8. Special Circumstances. Occasionally, band members may be released from rehearsals or performances due to special opportunities and/or circumstances. If you anticipate being absent for longer than one week of rehearsals—or for any performances—you MUST contact the director as soon as you know. You should expect to be removed from band activities (including drill) for the time during and surrounding your absence. Also expect your scholarship to be reduced proportionately for the extent of your hiatus.

See full attendance policy


Our participation policy can best be explained using our catchphrase: DO YOUR B.E.S.T. FOR THE SPIRIT OF THE WEST

"B" Be Prepared

Come to rehearsal and performances ready to go--music learned, instrument well-maintained, dressed appropriately, and with all of your necessary gear/music in hand.

"E" Enthusiasm and Effort

We believe that the band belongs to its members. The season can be as fun as you want to make it, so we encourage you to anticipate rehearsals with a sense of excitement and possibility. This is one of the few classes that grades on attitude.

"S" Speak Little, Learn Much

Focus on the needs of the rehearsal and avoid talking unless it is absolutely necessary. Too many cooks spoil the brew! 

"T" Time

Let's make the most of our time together. There will never be another Spirit of the West like this year. The band belongs to you—Own the Band.

Performance Privilege

We believe that performing with the band is a privilege and not a right. Therefore, every member will be held accountable for knowing his/her music, drill, and choreography. Your reward for your preparation, effort, and skill is to step on the turf in Bobcat Stadium and show it off. Likewise, we may revoke performance privileges for unpreparedness, noncompliance, ill health, or for any reason that may contribute to the degradation of the band or impact the educational outcomes of its members

See full participation policy

Student Leadership

One of the biggest reasons that the SotW has grown so much so fast is due to the work of many talented student leaders that help their fellow students become fantastic band members. Our student leadership team consists of drum majors, section leaders, music/marching/color captains, and managers--each with a specific job that contributes to the program. In order to earn a position of leadership, students must demonstrate outstanding attitude in ability through years of service in the band and in a competitive selection process.

Drum Majors -- conduct the band, set the tone in rehearsal, teach marching technique, and serve as the leaders of the instructional student leadership team

Music Captains -- assist with music rehearsal and hold regular part checks with all band members within their area

Marching Captains -- skilled marchers who assist with setting forms, full-band visuals, and correcting individual technique

Color Captains -- (includes both the field captains and the color guard captains) creates choreography, assist with visual rehearsals, and holds part checks within their area

Section Leaders -- (serve as "cheerleader" for their section) inform members about dates and policies, reinforce marching playing skills taught in rehearsal, hold weekly sectionals, track individual progress for the members of their section, and represent their section in leadership meetings

Managers/staff -- organize and execute all behind-the-scenes activity required for the care and function of the band including equipment, food, records, uniforms, attendance, lockers, room designations, field preparation, and organization/transportation of the band trailer

View current student leadership team


Uniforms, Equipment, Music&Drill

The band will provide formal uniforms to the members of the band. As long as the uniform is returned to us at the end of the season with no more than normal wear and tear, there is no charge additional charge uniform usage. The band will also provide t-shirts and hats to our members. However, band members are responsible for their own footwear, khaki pants, and cold-weather gear. This includes black marching shoes and black boots.

Band members are responsible for the care and maintenance of all equipment used while participating in the SotW. This includes both school-owned and personal instruments. There is no rental charge for using our instruments, provided that they are returned at the end of the season with no more than normal wear and tear. Music and drill is required at all rehearsals.

All members are responsible for knowing and following our uniform and equipment policy. The Uniform Manager oversees all uniform components and has the final decision over what is acceptable performance attire. The Equipment Manager oversees the use of all equipment and has the final decision over all things related to instruments, equipment, music, and supplies. The Records Manager oversees the distribution of music and drill, while the Attendance Attendant tracks daily attendance. 

See full uniform/equipment policy


All members of the "Spirit of the West" receive a partial tuition waiver for playing in the band--regardless of major. Course load restrictions and GPA requirements may apply. The waiver is worth $1000 PLUS bonus. Bonuses are awarded for continued involvement in the band. All new, incoming band members receive a $1,000 tuition waiver for the year. If that same person joins the band again the following year, he/she will receive a bonus of $300 in addition to the $1,000 base scholarship!


  1. Successful completion of the season in compliance with all the policies of the band. No missed field performances.
  2. Enroll in marching band as a class [MUSI 155-01].
  3. Timely communication of any circumstance that might alter your scholarship eligibility. (The financial aid program for a university student can be quite complicated. Specific circumstances will be discussed with individuals as the need arises).

Scholarship Schedule

  1. Base Scholarship for all members: $1000
    • Awarded: in the Spring semester following participation in marching band.
    • Requirements: Successful completion of the season and in compliance with all of the policies of the band. Being enrolled in marching band as a class. No missed field performances.
  2. Yearly Bonus +$300 for all returning band members
    • Awarded: in the following fall semester (unless you are graduating)
    • Requirements: Successful completion of the prior season (as described above) PLUS participation during the spring semester in musical activity on your primary instrument (generally an MSU ensemble, but other options may be available, depending on individual needs)
  3. Section Leader/Captain Bonus: +$300
    • Awarded: during the semester of leadership
    • Requirements: Section leaders and captains are determined through interview/audition process in the spring semester

See full scholarship policy


Because of the co-curricular nature of the marching band, and the fact that students receive at most 2 credits for 6.5 hours of class time per week, the grading of MUSI 155 is largely participation-based. Students can expect to receive an "A" for the course as long as they meet all of the requirements as explained in the band policies.

Performance: Prepare part checks of music choreography, and drill of throughout the semester
Attendance: Attend all field performances and rehearsals
Decorum: Take care of your uniform and instrument. Always demonstrate an appropriate attitude and effort. 

See full grading policy


Our goal for the Spirit of the West Marching Band is to become no less than one of the premier college marching bands in the country. This is why every member of our band is expected to contribute musically and visually to our performances with the intention of making every show better than the last. Being a member of a large marching band can be incredibly exhilarating. But it should also be challenging, educational, and meaningful. Our design team and our student leadership council have worked incredibly hard to provide an experience that will be all of these things. Now it is just a matter of individual execution.

With this in mind, we ask that band members complete regular part checks throughout the season. These are officiated by our instrument captains and drum majors. We expect that it will be necessary for students to have to practice their parts outside of rehearsal to pass their part checks. 

It will take a tremendous amount of effort, preparation, and practice, but the result on the field will be nothing short of spectacular. As a member of our band you will be joining a legacy that renews itself every year. What will this year say about you?

Welcome to Montana State University and welcome to the Sprit of the West!

2017 Survey Results