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Eichler gift is music to fans of Spartan Marching Band

When the 300-member Spartan Marching Band takes the field next fall ready to thrill 75,000 fans with a one-of-a-kind performance, their signature "all brass and sax" sound will have an electrifying new edge.

With a gift from band parents Edwin (Ed) and Wanda Eichler, the band recently purchased 62 custom-designed professional trumpets completing Band Director John Madden's dream for a purity of sound the likes of which has never been heard in Spartan Stadium.

Always looking for ways to make a great band even greater, Madden has worked to move the ensemble from one where some students provided their own instruments, to one where each section plays on identical instruments owned by the band. Band alumni got behind the ambitious plan with gifts that outfitted the saxophone and trombone sections. Expanding the new cleaner sound while enhancing a driving baseline, the tuba section not only picked up new instruments but also swelled to 24 in number. The costly sousaphones were eked from around the edges of the band's budget, two or three at a time, with hopes that trumpets could gradually be provided in similar fashion. As the parents of three band alumni, with the youngest Peter ('O6, Arts and Letters) still involved as a color guard director, the Eichlers were well aware of the goal and wanted to help.

"Music is as important as anything else in the university," Ed said. "We are so pleased to be able to shift this into higher gear."

Wanda sums up their commitment by pointing out that music can always be counted on to lift people up.

The Eichlers didn't forget the color guard. They provided an additional gift to boost the part of the band that gives it a visual style uniquely its own. In the off season, the State of Art Winterguard competes in national tournaments, an essential component to maintaining and improving their performances year round. In recent years, the group took top honors in Division II and earned a spot in Division I, this year taking 7th place in that higher category. The cash infusion from the Eichlers will allow the color guard to compete in more tournaments and expand programming to aid in recruiting promising high school students.

Ed and Wanda, reside in Tucson, Arizona and Pigeon, Michigan where Ed serves as president and CEO of Agri-Valley Communications and Wanda runs a textile design business. For the Eichlers, music has always been a family affair. Wanda plays piano and has directed choirs. Ed played tuba and percussion. All three of their children - Will, Liesl, and Peter - and Will's wife Wendy Mata Eichler participated in the Spartan Marching Band while attending MSU. Ed recalls the thrill of taking part in MSU Band Days as a member of the Laker High School Marching Band. He was fond of telling his children "I performed with the Spartan Marching Band before your band director was born!"

In appreciation for their generosity, the band will spell out Eichler at one of the home football game performances this coming fall.

For more information on making a gift to the College of Music, contact Assistant Director of Development Linda Conradi at (517) 353-9872;