The Pride’s traditions encourage personal, professional growth


As the first chords of “Ring the Bells” resonates across the football stadium, the South Dakota State community becomes one.

Alumni, students and friends of the university stand together to cheer for SDSU. Everyone claps along to the same beat as The Pride of the Dakotas leads the way.

This tradition bonds each of these people together in these few seconds, and the song holds a special meaning for The Pride of the Dakotas members.

“No matter if the Jacks win or lose, the football players come to the end zone and face us as we play ‘Ring the Bells’ and ‘Yellow and Blue,’” said Anna Pickford, senior education major and piccolo player. “When we win, they smile and laugh, and when we lose, they take off their shoes and helmets … you can tell they are very grateful for us, their school and the Pride.”

This year The Pride celebrated its 126th anniversary.

Kevin Kessler, music professor and director of The Pride, said what makes the marching band so special is the performance traditions.

“The fact that ‘Yellow and Blue’ (the school song) was written here on campus, and was written by a band director who was here 110 years ago … that’s something that we’re very proud of, that’s a unique tradition that’s uniquely ours,” Kessler said.

Along with the school song, the Pride practices a swing step, a unique type of march where the feet step out of the traditional march. Additionally, another tradition is the set of drum cadences for all Pride events that identify them as the SDSU marching band, Kessler said.

“I was in the band as a student,” Kessler said, “so there’s an extra added layer of importance to me that those things are maintained under my watch, and that the students come to understand the importance of those traditions and the importance of just being a member of the band.”

Student traditions help Pickford feel closer to her bandmates. One of the traditions that stands out the most to her is when any band member has a birthday. During practice, they have to stand on the podium, tell a joke and bring candy for the entire band. 

“Most of my friends I’ve met in The Pride when I was a freshman, and we’ve been friends throughout, and we’re still friends to this day because of Pride,” Pickford said.

The traditions played a role in Pickford’s growth in more than one way.

“I’m one of the section leaders for one of the Pride sections,” Pickford said. “And as a freshman I was very shy and quiet, but it really builds your leadership skills, communication skills, things like that.”

Brittany Fischer, senior global studies and sociology major, attributes her leadership skills to being a section leader for the color guard in The Pride.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot about leadership and speaking abilities … learning how to address issues in a positive way,” Fischer said.

Another student tradition for Pride members is to have a dress up day every game day. Specific dress up days, according to Pickford, include dressing as a superhero and another where each section wore a different color. 

“It just helps generate some fun,” Fischer said.

The opening fanfare The Pride plays during every home football game at half time has been part of The Pride tradition for more than 30 years, Kessler said.

Students “come from all different colleges, all different majors,” Kessler said, “… even though we have this wide range of people and experiences, it’s fun to see them come together as one.”

Kessler’s favorite tradition of the Pride is the students. 

“It really is the students we have,” Kessler said. “They’re a very special group of people.”