The Pride: Then and Now





The Pride is Back” is a phrase that will forever be ingrained into my memory. 

Spending four years on the field during Jackrabbit football games was not quite enough time to fully understand the impact this band would have on my life. At the 2014 Hobo Day game, taking a bow for the last time as the head Drum Major was a moment I’ll never forget. 

The Pride of the Dakotas is much more than just a band. The Pride is a family of people that encompasses all areas of the university. Not only a mixture of majors, but ethnicities, languages and interests. Yet every game day, each of us marched onto that field to represent a university and football team that we are each incredibly proud of. 

Being a part of The Pride taught me a lot during my four years at South Dakota State University. It gave me good opportunities to meet people where they are and to understand that each individual carries a story that is deeper than the possible smile that they are carrying on their face. I met some of my best friends during my time as a Pride member. 

It forced me to talk to the people around me, to invest in their lives and to create intentional relationships with them moving into the next few years in the band and even after graduation. The friends that I made have now graduated and are scattered around the United States and even a few other countries! That in itself has opened up opportunities to travel and see parts of the United States that I hadn’t seen prior.

Over the years, it has been a blast meeting and becoming friends with different alumni members of The Pride. Hearing their crazy stories of what The Pride was like during their years is both touching and hilarious. There have been moments where it has been hard to catch my breath because I was laughing so hard at their stories. 

Besides the rich history of excellence for our band, The Pride really embraces something special. The Pride is a group of people that know how to have a blast. We work hard, but we sure have fun doing it. The previous director of athletic bands, Jim Coull, would push us to be the best that we could be, but it wouldn’t be worth it if we weren’t truly enjoying it as well. Though Coull has retired and the new director of athletic bands, Kevin Kessler, has stepped into his place, I know that the band is in great hands. 

Mr. Kessler, soon-to-be Dr. Kessler, was my band director in high school. This man is the reason that I chose to go to SDSU and major in music education. Kessler not only fostered an incredible learning environment for us in high school, but encouraged us to have the time of our lives every time that we stepped onto the field. Kesser lives and breathes SDSU, so I know without a doubt that he is telling The Pride to do the same each and every time they go out and march for the Jacks.

I know that I’m not the only one that holds this band dear to my heart. Thousands of people have stepped onto that field being a part of The Pride of the Dakotas and I know there are many more to come. The experiences that I had will differ from others, but one thing is for certain; The Pride of the Dakotas was once, currently is and will always be a crazy family of proud Jackrabbits and I was blessed to be apart of it.

 Joshua Jasper is an alumnus of SDSU and can be reached at [email protected]




My name is Ben Halbkat, and I am a freshman from Huron, SD.  Since this is my first year at SDSU and my first time living away from home, I had some hesitations about coming to college.  My anxieties, however, disappeared about as soon as I arrived. 

I have adjusted well to the college life and living on my own, so to speak.  I enjoy having a set schedule I created that gives me time to not only get all of my coursework completed, but that also leaves me extra time to pursue extracurricular activities, such as music. 

Music has been a very influential force that has shaped my life, so when I first learned about The Pride of the Dakotas marching band, I could not wait to join.

I have played musical instruments and sung in many choirs for the better half of my life.  Ever since I began with orchestra in the fourth grade, I have been hooked on music.  The Pride allows me to continue my passion for the fine arts while focusing on my collegiate duties. 

As a first-time member of The Pride, it was a shock to go from marching with 60-some students I grew up with my whole life to playing amongst 200 brand new faces. I had some misgivings about if I would be able to handle such a dramatic shift in band size, but those worries did not last long.  If anything, I ended up enjoying The Pride more than any other music program SDSU has to offer me.

The band members quickly reached out to know every incoming member, including myself.  Each section took newcomers in and treated us like family and gave us a sense as if we were always part of the band.  Everybody lends a helping hand to those who ask for it, whether they are firsttime marchers or veterans of the field. 

I came into The Pride with five years of experience already, but I still end up learning new techniques and receiving constructive criticism from my superiors.  The music is not much more difficult than that of a high school level, so most of the daily practice focuses around learning and improving the movements between charts of a show. 

Marching for so many years allows me to move across the field almost effortlessly and gives me the chance to observe my surroundings and other band members.  Even a veteran like myself still needs to be observant of form shape and marcher position.

Every day, minus Tuesday, we have a 75-minute practice that leads up to the weekend home games. My first few weeks of practice were unlike any I experienced back in Huron.  I discovered that unlike high school bands, who work only one show and perfect it for a single season, college-level bands often change their shows biweekly.  I could not believe that all of the work we would put into a show could just end the following Monday and start anew.  It took a little time, but I grew used to it. 

Once we are comfortable with the show, we improve it and wait patiently for Saturday.  Before my first game day show with The Pride, I was terribly excited and nervous to march in front of thousands of people.  Once I got onto the field and took in my surroundings, I had chills running up and down the full length of my back.  Everyone in the stands cheered loudly for us, and it gave me a sense of pride to be a member of The Pride. 

That first performance sparked a newfound passion inside me to perform the best I possibly can for every football game. I want to show people that I take great pride in my marching abilities and that I live for every Saturday I can suit up and march in the stadium. 

My Pride journey could not have had a better beginning. I cannot wait until the next time I can perform my best for the joy of the fans of not only the football team, but also of The Pride of the Dakotas.

 Ben Halbkat is a biology secondary education major and can be reached [email protected]