Q&A: Ryan Simpson, Marching Band spirit leader

Rachel Holtzman, Reporter

With his cheeriness, wit and love for all things Northwestern, McCormick senior Ryan Simpson, a trumpet player and the spirit leader for the Northwestern University Marching Band, keeps up the gameday enthusiasm of everyone at Ryan Field, from NUMB to the spectators. The Daily spoke with Simpson about the position, his experiences in NUMB and the University’s unique gameday culture.

For those who don’t know, what is the spirit team, and what do you like about it?

Our job is really to keep the band pumped up during games, and that role has also really expanded to making sure that everyone else stays pumped up. I love making people laugh. I love that what I do helps people enjoy band more. During the games, it makes people more excited. Even people outside of the band might look at me and say, “Who’s that kid in the hat? He looks like he’s having a great time, so we can also have a great time.”

What does a typical Saturday football game look like?

When there’s a lot going on in the game, we’re dancing around. When there’s a lull in the action but the moment’s still intense, we’ll get a “Go U NU” chant going on. Otherwise, it’s just about keeping the energy up. One thing I’ve realized while I’m up there is that I can never really slack off in terms of energy. If I’m not into it, why should anyone else care what’s going on?

What do you think Northwestern’s spirit style is like compared to the rest of the Big Ten?

I don’t know if any other band has anything like our spirit team. Most bands have a drum major, but that’s the only person really on the ladder and doing spirit, not really counting cheerleaders. We’re just a different school altogether. … We’re this small private school that, for a while, in the 70s and 80s, was not good at football, so the spirit team’s job was kind of different. The band may have had the only students at the games sometimes. It’s something that’s always evolving, but I guess our idea of spirit within the band is having a quirkier idea of spirit. We couldn’t always just have a “Ra, ra, we’re going to beat you!” kind of experience — we had to just have fun with it ourselves for a while. Of course, I’m really excited that we’re doing well this season so far.

What are some of your favorite band and spirit traditions?

Some of them are really cool and weird — I’m still trying to figure out where they came from, but they’ve been passed down to us for years. One thing that’s cool is that the things that we do are things that have stuck around for 20 years, and I think it’s cool that something I do now may stick with people 20 years down the line.

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