The heartbeat of campus. The soundtrack to Minnesota State. These are some of the ways students describe the Maverick Machine.
“We’re the first thing that people hear or see as a freshman and the last thing they hear or see when they graduate and walk across the stage. We’re there for everything,” drum major and senior Gabriella Sanchez said.
Originating in 1929, the band played for 80 years before it was dismembered in 2009 due to budget cuts. It would be nearly four quiet years later before Michael Thursby applied for the Director of Athletic Bands position in the spring of 2013.
“Some of those first conversations I had with President Davenport and Kevin Buisman was like ‘Well, let’s get this energy back up.’ They wanted to build the spirit back up and that was one of the reasons I applied for the position,” Thursby said. I still feel really fortunate to have the position I do.”
In the last 10 years, the band has grown from 30 members to 150. Thursby said while the band has grown and matured, they’re still figuring out what the band’s identity is.
“We change every year with the students that we have in the program and then the students kind of lead the direction on where we’re gonna go and we’re continuing to kind of learn about ourselves and grow in that way,” Thursby said.
Over 60 alumni joined the 2023-24 Maverick Machine out on the field during the halftime performance at Saturday’s football game. Sanchez said bringing the alumni back was important for celebrating the 10-year anniversary.
“We’re currently in our reboot era and the ensemble has been around for a long time. I’m looking forward to bringing everyone back and hearing all of the stories and experiences,” Sanchez said.
Playing music isn’t the only responsibility of the Maverick Machine. Besides playing flute, senior Mitchel Pomije was given the role of spirit coordinator, a role that gives him “permission to yell louder” than he already does.
“I was originally offered the position last year and was like ‘Thursby, what does this job mean?’ He said ‘I need you to bring the energy when no one else does, so that involves directing cheers and chants and making sure that individuals have an understanding of the game,” Pomije said.
Pomije joined the Maverick Machine after walking past one of the tabling booths while touring campus.
“I enjoyed pep band in high school and it seemed the most applicable for me. I put my name down and one semester led to another,” Pomije said.
Pomije said while getting credit for being the heartbeat of campus isn’t a term they take lightly, it’s challenging for them to get all events.
“We’re asked to be at all of the home games and then there are all the other performances we keep getting asked to perform. Trying to take that balance on an individualistic level of being everywhere at once is not the healthiest way to go about balancing our time, especially as we’re getting more entangled within the culture of campus,” Pomije said.
A theme that runs through the band is the gears students receive each year at the end of band camp. Thursby said the gears are a metaphor for how the band functions.
“Every student is a gear and without all of us working together, then the program doesn’t work,” Thursby said.
To Sanchez, the gears represent how one person’s role isn’t more important than another’s.
“I’m not more important than a rookie. I’m not more important than someone who’s been there even longer than me. I’m not more important than Thursby,” Sanchez said. “You can’t have gears rotating on the top or bottom without the gears in the middle.”
Sanchez said being in the Maverick Machine has changed her life.
“I definitely don’t know what I would be doing without the Maverick Machine. It’s changed my life for the better. I’ve grown from it and gotten these experiences that I probably never would have had otherwise,” Sanchez said.
With the band’s three main concepts of family, pride and excellence, Pomije said the band is more than just words on a sweatshirt.
“It’s something that we truly embody. It’s building those connections that are going to transcend past your collegiate career. It’s building us as characters, individuals and leaders. That is something that will transcend with just about every single member,” Pomije said.
Sanchez said it’s a place where students can find their home.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s for your entire college career or if it’s just for a semester,” Sanchez said. “You’ll find a connection there that will last for a while, if not a lifetime.”
For students looking to get involved in the Maverick Machine, Pomije said “Why not?”
“Nowhere else can you be as involved and engaged with representing your institution. Nowhere can you be that up close and personal to everything that is going on,” Pomije said.
As for where the Maverick Machine goes in the next 10 years, Thursby said it’s up to the students.
“It’s the students who bleed purple and gold for Maverick Athletics and MSU. These students want to do it. They want to be there because they love it,” Thursby said. “Whatever direction they’d like to see the program go in, I will just help facilitate that however I can.”
Header photo: The Maverick Machine celebrated 10 years during the homecoming halftime concert over 60 alumni joined the current band members out on the field. Songs were related to the theme of coming home. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Emma Johnson at Emma.email@example.com