Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Spirit of the West?

The "Spirit of the West" (or SotW) is Montana State University's marching band. We perform at all home MSU football games as well as in many other venues around campus and the city of Bozeman. The band consists of MSU students representing over 40 majors. We provide everything for the band except shoes and warm weather gear.

Who Can Be in the "Spirit of the West" Marching Band?

Any MSU student (regardless of major) with high school playing or colorguard experience can join the band. All members receive a partial tuition waiver of $1,000 (plus $300 bonus per year) for being in the band. Every season begins with a week of rehearsals prior to the start of the fall semester. We use this time to teach marching fundamentals and the music for the season. Due to the number of interested students and the finite number of instruments and uniforms, we do hold auditions for the more popular instruments. 

What is "band camp," and Why Does it Exist?

Band camp is a week of rehearsals for the SotW that happen the week prior to the start of classes in the fall semester. This time is crucial for teaching marching fundamentals, music, and the drill for the football pregame and halftime shows. Attendance and band camp is required of all members. The first three days of camp are exclusively for new members. During this time we hold tryouts for the band. Remember, this is your opportunity to try us out as well.

Where Do I Live and What Do I Eat During Band Camp?

All SotW members that are planning on living in the residence halls during the year will be allowed to move into their dorms early. Not only does this get the band together for camp, but also has the added benefit of avoiding traditional move-in day (which is usually very crowded). Since the dining halls do not open until mid-week, the band provides meals for the band during the first few days of camp.

When Is Band Camp?

The latest schedule for band camp can be found here.

What Do I Need to Be in the Band?

Any MSU student with high school band playing or color guard experience is welcome to join the SotW. In addition to attending band camp, the weekly rehearsals, and the performances, all members are asked to buy their own marching shoes and warm-weather clothes. We also ask that members have khaki pants for occasional informal gigs around campus. We provide specialized marching instruments (drumline, colorguard, sousaphones, baritones, mellophones), but otherwise generally expect members to use their own instruments.

What Are the Requirements?

All members are expected to register for MUSI 155 (Spirit of the West) as an official MSU course. Members are expected to attend band camp, regular rehearsals, and ALL performances. Most importantly, SotW members are expected to be enthusiastic about the marching band experience at MSU. In other words: faithfully adhering to the policies of the band, accepting instruction from the director, staff, and student leaders, diligently working to improve one's performance, and upholding the MSU student code of conduct.

What Can the SotW Do for Me?

The SotW is one of the largest organized student groups on campus. We have members from nearly every major and freshmen through seniors. Joining the band provides an automatic connection with many other students and an instant network of friends—which can be very important when coming to college for the first time. The band also provides some amazing life experiences. We routinely perform for crowds of up to 18,000 in the newly expanded Bobcat Stadium. Band members attend all the home football games for free (with great seats). Lastly, the band is an academic class (providing either one or two credits) that seeks to improve the musical and kinesthetic aptitude of our members. The joy of playing an instrument (or spinning a flag) in a group of like-minded people is often a welcome release from the daily grind of studying and attending classes. This is why the SotW retains a lively and positive attitude ...oh, and we provide a partial tuition waiver to all members.


Yes! 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 years in the band ($300 per year). All new, incoming band members receive a $1,000 tuition waver for the year. If that same person joins the Band again the following year, he/she will receive $1,300, then $1,600 for their third year, and $1,900 for every year after that. A band member can save $5,800 dollars in tuition over a four-year period!

How do Tuition Waivers Work? Can't I Just Get Cash?

The University offers tuition assistance for being in the marching band. The award will be credited toward your tuition for the SPRING semester following your participation in the SotW. Tuition assistance (or partial tuition waivers as they are technically called) is/are NOT redeemable for cash. However, there are a number of important exceptions that may alter the application of a waiver. Since it gets complicated at this point, we just handle these on a case-by-case basis as the need arises.

Is There an Audition for the Spirit of the West Marching Band?

Yes, but these are largely informal. Members are expected to have sufficient playing ability to perform the music to a university standard. We also spend a good deal of time during camp teaching marching and expect our members to demonstrate appropriate technique. With the exception of the drumline and color guard, it is unusual that students with high school playing experience are cut from the band. 

The drumline and color guard do hold competitive performance auditions. Specific information will be emailed to perspective members using the address provided on the pre-registration form.

Can I be in the Band if I Have Never Marched in a Band Before, or Come from a School With No Marching Band?

Yes. Every year there are a number of new members that come from schools that have either very little or no marching bands. We will give everyone the basics of marching technique during band camp.

Why Don't We Have a Pit?

The climate in Montana makes it difficult to ensure that the pit/front ensemble will be successful game by game. Cold temperatures cause intonation problems, and snow can restrict access to the sideline. In addition, a good deal of our performances occurs in parades and in the streets outside of the stadium - where having a pit is not logistically possible.

Do we have a Guard?

Yes! We happily invite all students guard experience to audition. Our color guard is unique because we do not have a "set" way of doing things every year. This is because the makeup of the guard is so different from year-to-year (especially in terms of background). For guard-related questions, please email, and we will put you in touch with our guard captains.

If I am in the Marching Band, Can I Borrow an Instrument to Play?

Yes, especially if you play a specialized marching instrument (sousaphone, baritone, mellophone, piccolo, drumline, colorguard). We also have a limited number of other instruments available for student use.

Can I be in the Band if I Don't Play an Instrument?

No. The marching band is not a good place for someone who is just learning to play. The exception would be for someone with dance experience that is interested in learning to spin a flag (joining the colorguard).