New director’s love for The Pride runs deep


Kevin Kessler’s love for band started with his band director, Dale Nelson, who inspired him musically and personally. Kessler joined The Pride family this year as the new director of athletic bands, just in time to celebrate 125 years of band at South Dakota State University and 50 years of The Pride.

Nelson encouraged a young Kessler to attend a summer music camp at SDSU and that is how he fell even more in love with music, the directors and the university. When it came time to apply to college, SDSU was the only school he applied to.

During his time at SDSU and in The Pride, he played the trumpet his freshman year and was a drum major for the rest of his undergraduate career. He also had the opportunity to play for President Clinton and shake his hand in 1996 and march in the 1997 Inaugural Parade.

Kessler said the pride is a “close-knit group” and a family. He met his wife while in the band and gained many lifelong friendships.

Kessler taught high school band at Brandon Valley High School for 14 years before he took the director position at SDSU. He said he enjoyed his time teaching, but was ready for a new adventure. In 2012, he resigned from teaching and moved his family to Iowa City, Iowa so he could continue to pursue his education.

Since starting his new position as band director, Kessler has made numerous changes to the program; some of them his ideas and others, ideas of the students. The pregame traditions have changed for The Pride by playing the school song and spelling out words such as “Jacks” and “SDSU.”

They also march alongside the student body and the Barnyard Cadets from the Larson Commons green to the tailgating area, where they perform. The Pride now plays the verses of the song “Yellow and Blue,” instead of just the refrain, which they have done in previous years. Kessler said he wanted to bring this tradition back because “Yellow and Blue” is distinctively SDSU’s song.

“Any band director would say we love rehearsal and we love performing—that is why we got into the business,” Kessler said. “However, I’ve come to love our pregame performance because it’s all about SDSU, our school, our students and our alumni.”

During the halftime show, The Pride, under Kessler’s direction, tries to perform to the whole stadium. For example, in the halftime show against Robert Morris, the band spelled Jacks to the east and then to the west sides of the stadium in attempt to engage the whole audience. This will become especially important once the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium is completely finished. 

“It humbles me that I have this job,” Kessler said, “and have the opportunity to follow in their [past directors’] footsteps.”