September 18, 2019 | 64° F

U. marching band prepares for Super Bowl

Photo by Nisha Datt |

Rutgers Marching Band, scheduled to perform on Sunday at the Super Bowl, rehearses for their performance at the Bubble on Busch Campus.  The show would include a medley of songs from artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z.

The Rutgers Marching Band and the Syracuse University Marching Band plans to perform alongside each other for the first time at Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Ever since the rumor emerged that the University marching band would be performing at the game, Paul Nalesnik, percussion arranger, has had his work cut out for him.

“There was a rumor [floating around] at first but nobody knew what was going to happen in terms of what we were going to play, how we were going to play or who we were going to play with,” he said.

Nalesnik, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior, said he has been working with Syracuse Band Director Justin Mertz and his counterpart, Robert Birch, to coordinate drum line arrangements.

It has been a challenge coordinating things not only because of the distance between the two schools, but because it has come at the beginning of the semester when many of the band members are busy, he said.

When people are missing, there are no substitutes. Instead, Nalesnik said the band has to work around the space that an absentee would be taking up during the performance. This makes learning the precise steps of the performance a bit harder.

Despite the obstacles they have faced, Nalesnik said he was confident in both bands’ abilities to deliver.

“On the field there’s going to be one huge duel in the back,” he said. “It should be really cool, we’ll be splitting the field.”

The exact pieces that plan to be played are being kept under wraps, but he said he hopes for it to be a rousing medley of tunes.

Tim Smith, the director of athletic bands, said selections will be from artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z.

“The Super Bowl people told us that they wanted [to add] New York and New Jersey flair to the show so … Mertz and I came up with the arrangements,” Smith said.

Smith said his role as director is to help tie all the moving parts of the performance into one cohesive group.

“My goal is to bring everything together,” he said. “I’m kind of like the head coach for the band.”

Smith said the performance is elaborate, and the challenge of coordinating something so robust with another school over a distance of 250 miles is daunting.

“The biggest challenge is going to be timing,” he said. “There are two huge bands that have never played [with one another] coming together for the first time on Sunday before the game.”

Even so, Smith said the bands understood each other from so far away with an exceptional ease.

“It’s amazing how … the bands speak the languages all the same,” Smith said. “The movements have some stylistic differences that are small but, well — it’s a small world is what I’m trying to say.”

Smith said he is hopeful the bands can be the centerpiece of the opening shot for Fox’s pre-game coverage.

“What we’re hoping is … that the opening shot on Fox is of the field and the bands will still be on the field finishing up our show,” he said. “There can be no guarantee.”

Another matter that has no guarantees, Smith said, was what the outcome of the Super Bowl might be, but he did offer his prediction. Smith said he thought the Denver Broncos would emerge victorious.

Kevin Lu, the treasurer of Rutgers University Ballroom, said the club is excited to be attending the halftime show at the big game. Last year, the club placed second in nationals.

“This is something very exciting,” Lu, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said. “But there’s a very strict confidentiality notice that they made us sign.”

The agreement stated that, if broken, the offending party could be disbarred from participation, he said.

Lu said he could not offer any further comments other than the fact that Rutgers University Ballroom should be present.

Smith said the band was unfazed by absentees during the rehearsal process because it is an uncommon hurdle to come across for marching bands, Smith said.

“I think [the performance] is going to be great. Everyone is excited and I’ve been talking daily to the band director [at Syracuse] about what we’re doing at rehearsals so we’re on the same page,” he said. “I anticipate nothing but greatness when those two groups come together.”

Correction: In a previous version of this article, Paul Nalesnik was incorrectly attributed to having said a number of quotes that were actually said by Tim Smith.

By Adam Uzialko

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