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Strike Up the Band: Marchers suit for success

November 30, 2011
Steve Kalber (center) with members of the marching band at Homecoming.

Steve Kalber (center) with members of the marching band at Homecoming.

We all know it takes talent, sweat, and discipline to be an athlete, but have you ever stopped to think that it takes the same mettle to march in the band?

Skeptics need only watch junior Zach Haas perform “Let’s Groove Tonight” on his 45-pound sousaphone during a Huskie halftime show to become believers.

The biological sciences major admits marching in the band is hard work, but he doesn’t hesitate to add that it’s worth every minute.

“Band students make a serious commitment,” says Paul Bauer, director of the NIU School of Music. “They rehearse eight hours a week and give up entire days on game days.”

All that hard work positions band students for success, and alumnus Steve Kalber (’70, management) has made sure they’re dressed for the part. His latest gift bought the band new uniforms.

“After 15 years, the old uniforms no longer reflected the character of our band,” says Tom Bough, director of the Huskie Marching Band.

Most importantly, the old uniforms presented a safety issue. They were wool and very hot, Bough says. “Every year we’d have students in the ambulance with heat exhaustion.”

Kalber says when he found out how desperately the band needed them, he knew he wanted to help.

Andy Hofmann, freshman OM&IS major, models the band's new uniforms.

Andy Hofmann, freshman OM&IS major, models the band's new uniforms.

Unlike the old uniforms that had so many patches that dry cleaners could no longer clean them, the new ones are made of a more breathable fabric; are constructed of fewer layers; and are easier to put on and take off.

Senior Shelby Devitt says, “I think this is the first year no one has had to sit out because they got sick from the heat.”

“The new uniforms are a grand slam,” says Rich Holly, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “I’ve been at NIU for almost three decades, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much excitement among band members.”

“It’s about more than a new look. The gift has a ripple effect for the School of Music,” Bauer says. “The uniforms are the largest expenditure for the school in the past 20 years, so the gift lifted a tremendous burden. It will free up money for other needs. For example, now more money can be spent on instructional needs to benefit other areas such as the orchestra, choirs, and other bands.”

New band uniforms aren’t cheap, and once Kalber saw the price tag, he realized he couldn’t do it alone. He says he was proud to find out that three other donors stepped up to finish the job: Energy Systems Group; Carr and Jill Davis; and Tom Wilson of the Rosebud Foundation.

This gift is another in a long line of gifts to the band from Kalber. In 2007, he created the first endowed scholarship fund in the band’s history in honor of his father, William Kalber.

“Steve puts students’ needs first,” says Mallory M. Simpson, president of the NIU Foundation. “His gifts benefit a wide variety of students since the marching band is comprised of virtually every major on campus.”

“He is as proactive as they come,” Bauer says. “Steve gives and then comes back and asks if we need anything else. And he asks for nothing in return.”

As he packs up his trumpet to head off to perform, Andy Hofmann has a message for Kalber: “We can’t tell Steve how much we enjoy our new uniforms. I think alumni enjoy seeing us in them too! We’re lucky to have Steve in our family.”

The retired uniforms are available for purchase.  All proceeds benefit the marching band.

The NIU Marching Band thanks Steve Kalber for his gift.