Down the Field for CMU: Marching Chips have brought the noise to Central Michigan football for nearly a century


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The Chippewa Marching Band practices on the Jack Saunders Marching field Sept. 22 in preparation for their performance at the Central Michigan Football game the following day.

As students, alumni and fans fill Kelly/Shorts Stadium on game day — athletes don their uniforms, adjust their helmets and ready their instruments. 

For nearly 94 years, the Central Michigan University marching band has provided the soundtrack for CMU football. With harmony and near-perfect precision, more than 260 student musicians march in unison across the field. 

The Marching Chips can be seen practicing outside Moore Hall as hard as any athlete. Day after day, members practice their steps and songs with intense determination. 

They rehearse in rain, snow and, last week, unseasonable September heat.

On the day before CMU's showdown with Miami University — in blistering 90 degree temperatures — the band runs through its routine under the direction of James Batcheller, School of Music faculty member and band general manager, and drum major Brendan Wilk. 

Members practice without — or in spite of — complaint, knowing the next day is only going to be hotter. 

"It's demanding," Wilk said. "Once you get the routine down it's all about the physical endurance more than anything else. We push our bodies to the limits but the adrenaline is what fuels us."

Wilk said Marching Chips put in about 17 hours of work every game week to perform for a roughly three-hour football contest. 

Regardless of the score, they play out their hearts to raise the crowds' spirit. 

Before entering the field on game day, the band takes 30 seconds of silence to mediate in preparation for hours of high-energy enthusiasm. Each game is a performance in dedication, endurance and personal struggle.

In that brief 30 seconds, the Marching Chips get ready to do what they do best.

"The days might be long and things might be tough," Wilk said. "But seeing the crowd respond and providing that sense of energy for the campus to get them fired up makes it all worth it."

A photo essay by Freelance Photographer Josie Norris.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer

Owosso sophomore Kat Knepp rests her head on the table at IHOP in Mount Pleasant Sept. 23. The trumpet section of the Chippewa Marching Band has a longstanding tradition of meeting at IHOP before call time on game day.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer
Surrounded by helmets and instruments, New Baltimore freshman Brendan Murphy curls up to scroll on his phone inside the Indoor Athletic Complex before the band's performance at the Central Michigan University football game against Miami University Sept. 23.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer
The Marching Chippewa's color guard prepare for their performance inside the Indoor Athletic Complex before Central Michigan University's football game against Miami University Sept. 23.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer

Alma junior Danielle Francis shields her faces from the sun as she tries to squeeze in a nap during the Chippewa Marching Band's morning practice before Central Michigan University's football game against Miami University Sept. 23.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer
Members of the saxophone section play their traditional happy birthday song to Brenda before Central Michigan University's football game against Miami University Sept. 23. The section has a longstanding tradition of serenading the mysterious Brenda every game day.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer
The Marching Chippewas cheer following a touchdown made by the Chippewas during Central Michigan University's football game against Miami University Sept. 23.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer

Northville sophomore Kevin Schulz wipes his brow during Central Michigan University's football game against Miami University Sept. 23.


Josie Norris | Freelance Photographer
The Marching Chippewas cry "Move that chain!" following the end of a play during Central Michigan University's football game against Miami University Sept. 23.

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