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University of Montana marching band told to play less at football games

UM Band at the Homecoming Parade, Missoula Mt.
Posted at 2:53 PM, Nov 20, 2023

MISSOULA — Saturday’s Brawl of the Wild drew more than 27,000 fans to Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and an important part of the game day atmosphere was the Grizzly Marching Band.

Although they perform on the field during pregame and halftime, an internal email says the band was asked to play fewer songs during the game so that canned music could be played instead.

In an email sent Saturday evening by UM band director Dr. Kevin Griggs to band members, Griggs said the athletic department asked him not to play the fight song after each touchdown, and that the stadium would play “Cotton-Eyed Joe” instead.

“They feel canned music pumps up the crowd more and is more interesting than the band music,” Griggs wrote. “You know that I find that to be a ridiculous opinion and I will fight for you and the role you play at the games.”

This follows a decision made near the start of the season to not include Montana State University’s marching band at the Brawl of the Wild so that more tickets to the game could be sold.

MTN spoke with Griggs Monday, and when asked about the email, he said he is “working with the athletic department for a positive resolution”.

Griggs pointed to Griz athletics’ Nic Hallisey as the person who made the change, writing in the email:

“The person responsible for the offensive and ignorant attitude regarding our participation is Nick Hallisey - Associate AD (Marketing and Communications). The GMB will continue to take the higher ground and remain the professionals in this fight. There are many ways that we can respond to this and I think that more people need to know that they are now trying to cut us out of participation at our own home games.”

But in a statement issued on X (formally Twitter) Monday afternoon, UM athletics Director Kent Haslam issued a statement and clarification regarding UM marching band playing time at Saturday's Brawl of the Wild game.

Below is his full statement:

The full text of the email is below:

“Great job today GMB! It was too loud in the stadium for me to pass along information that I think you need to know. I want to explain why we didn't play as much as we normally do.

Last night, around 1:30 am, I was sent a message from Athletics Marketing. They handle the Griz Vision and PA's, canned music, etc. They informed me that the GMB would not be allowed to play when the team was on defense. Also, they indicated that they would be canceling the fight song after a score during the game so that they could play Cotton Eye Joe instead.

The short answer to this - and the answer we got from them when Dr. Smart went and confronted them during lunch - is that they feel canned music pumps up the crowd more and is more interesting than the band music. You know that I find that to be a ridiculous opinion and I will fight for you and the role you play at the games. I didn't want to tell you about this before the game started because we needed to be positive and professional in our approach. I didn't want the whole band to be as angry as I have been all day. You needed to have a great day watching the team dominate the biggest game of the year!

I will continue to fight against this attitude and make sure that you are properly represented as UM students and members of the Grizzly Marching Band. College sports are not about canned music and selling stuff at every turn. We are the most important musical element in the stadium on game day and I'm going to make sure that Athletics remembers and acknowledges it. The person responsible for the offensive and ignorant attitude regarding our participation is Nick Hallisey - Associate AD (Marketing and Communications). The GMB will continue to take the higher ground and remain the professionals in this fight. There are many ways that we can respond to this and I think that more people need to know that they are now trying to cut us out of participation at our own home games.”

In a statement sent to MTN News Monday afternoon, University of Montana spokesperson Dave Kuntz said there was some information in the email from the band director that was not factual.

“The Grizzly Marching Band is essential to gamedays at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. In addition to their academic responsibilities, students in the Grizzly Marching Band invest hundreds of hours during the fall to invigorate the game day atmosphere. After the game, a communication was made from a UM employee to members of the band. That communication did not accurately reflect minor logistical changes that were made prior to Saturday’s game, and it included misleading information. Grizzly Athletics and the Grizzly Marching Band are working together to better coordinate their responsibilities in promoting a positive gameday atmosphere, and everyone at UM is eager to take next steps as we prepare collectively for a lengthy playoff run.” -Dave Kuntz, UM Spokesperson.