The Pride of the Dakotas: Music to the ears for 50 years


By Sarah McDonald Reporter

Flags can be seen and drums, brass and woodwinds heard on the SDSU campus once a day, at least five days a week, preparing to energize the Jackrabbit fans. 

These sounds can be heard from SDSU’s marching band, The Pride of the Dakotas. According to STATE magazine, The Pride of the Dakotas was a phrase coined by announcer Craig McNamara in 1966, and the name stuck.

Music major or not, anyone can become a member of the band. According to, the credit for the course can be counted toward the core humanities requirement. 

“Anyone who wants to be in The Pride, is in, but there are some auditions for some spots, for example drumline, drum major, and color guard. Some instruments are divided into parts, such as, first trumpet, second trumpet, and third trumpet,” said James Coull, director of athletic bands.

There is a lot of effort put into practicing each day for The Pride. The entire band meets from 4 to 4:50 p.m. on weekdays and on game days there is a rehearsal in the morning for about 30 to 45 minutes for last minute adjustments, Coull said.

According to Coull, The Pride has a different taste of music compared to other bands around the country. They have a proud tradition of being the biggest rock and roll band because they do a more upbeat style of music, compared to other marching bands that play something a little more artistic.

With all of these traditions and time spent each day practicing, the group has become a family, creating life-long relationships. 

“The Pride considers themselves one of the biggest family groups on campus in multiple ways,” Coull said. “We try and support each other like a family should.”

Even in families, there is always a leader. One of those leaders is Aaron Ragsdale. 

Ragsdale, director of the band’s drumline, arranges the music and runs sectional rehearsals and auditions for drumline.

“Usually in about June, I send out a packet of music to have students practice for the auditions, which are held during the first week of school,” Ragsdale said.

The drumline is asked to perform at different functions, including playing at corporate events or even playing at a high school band’s end of year show.

“The drumline got invited to go down to Sioux Falls to the chamber of commerce meeting at the Premier Center where the band Chicago is going to play at, and is opening for Chicago, which is a very exciting opportunity,” Ragsdale said.

Many students at SDSU only see The Pride perform their show at football games, but they also travel to different places. Jake Gundvaldson, sophomore mechanical engineering major, plays the tenor saxophone in The Pride.

“The Pride roughly goes to about four or five different places to perform each year.” Gundvaldson said.

Whether he is performing at a football game or doing exhibition at different places, Jake describes the rush he feels to perform at such a fast pace.

“When you know a show is put together that fast and then performed in front of everybody is just unbelievable,” Gundvaldson said.