Loud, proud, and rousing the crowds: Meet the music machine that’s just like family

In the 20 years between 1993 and 2013, the University went without a marching band. For 10 of those years, it didn’t have a pep band, either.

But since 2013, the Maverick Machine has broken that silence with a blast in every sense of the word. A blast of horns, drums, woodwinds and unforgettable times for students cranking up the volume on Maverick pride as though they were making up for lost time.

tuba player in the bleachers cheering on the team
Taylor Freeman at a Maverick football game.

“The priority for me is much more about that connection than it is about the music we play,” said Maverick Machine director Michael Thursby. “Our performances are important and we play really well, but I would much rather have a band that’s connected than have a bunch of random individuals out on a field.”

The Maverick Machine is the University’s marching band and its pep band, making the scene at as many athletic events as possible, including the upcoming homecoming game against the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The 120 students in the Machine bring to the band a range of disciplines. Membership is open to any level of existing musicianship from around campus. It’s a formula that has worked wonders in terms of creating a common thread among students from different areas of interest and study.

Senior Michael Thompson has been with the Machine from its start six years ago. His first years were as a high schooler from nearby St. Clair (back when the band was only 50 or 60 members strong, he said, and took in help from high schools.) Now one of three drum majors, he remains in the ensemble because … he can.

student trumpet player with purple hair outdoors at a ball game
Nathan Restyanszki hitting the high notes.

“It really is the family atmosphere,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of unparalleled with anything else I’ve experienced on campus.”

That suits Thursby’s vision of what he wants his players to find.

“They call it a family, and it truly is what it is,” Thursby said. “They have their ups and downs and there are good days and bad days. But they can come to this group and they have people they can go to.”

Saturday’s homecoming will be the latest chance for the band to show off before a large crowd, both in the noon parade and the afternoon football game. To a large degree, they’ll be showing off their musical chops. But they’ll also be showing off a key theme they’ve been pushing this year: Pride in the University.

“It’s an opportunity to show how proud we are to be at this university,” Thursby said. “The students wear that. Not only on the shirts they wear, they wear it. They bleed purple and gold. This is an awesome opportunity for us to be on display and for us to showcase to the state how proud we are to be mavericks and how proud we are to be here.”

Miranda Kelley and fellow Maverick Machine members en route to a performance at Target Field for the Aug. 6 Maverick alumni event.

Senior Heidi Lambrecht, also a senior and in her fourth year with the Machine, recalled her spirt soaring when the Maverick hockey team won the WCHA title as she and fellow bandmates cheered them on musically. When the players, carrying the victory cup, skated over to the band and surrounding students, Lambrecht said, it was a highlight of her college career.

Hers was a college career that began being concerned about fitting in, she said. The Maverick Machine experience took care of that.

“Being a part of the ensemble, we did all of these things and created long-lasting bonds along the way,” Lambrecht said. “I gained a ton of friendships, and I built my voice and my confidence… It’s been truly remarkable looking back on who I was as a freshman and who I am now. And the Maverick Machine had a huge impact on that.”