Michigan Marching Band to present ‘most spectacular halftime show to date’ on 9/11 anniversary Saturday

Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks

One of many patriotic tributes the Michigan Marching Band has performed over the years, their halftime show on Sept. 7, 2019 during the game against Army Black Knights unveiled a massive American Flag and a full lineup of patriotic music. (Robert Brown)

ANN ARBOR – Saturday night’s Michigan football game will feature a one-of-a-kind light show and performance by the Michigan Marching Band to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The Wolverines take on the Washington Huskies at Michigan Stadium at 8 p.m.

The band’s director John Pasquale said it will be the most extravagant, elaborate and spectacular live program presented at any football game on Saturday.

Produced by Los Angeles-based Durant Design, Pasquale said the “We Remember” halftime show will be on level with Super Bowl performances. Tim Durant has numerous live events on his resume, including NFL performances, the Winter Olympic Games and one of Paul McCartney’s tours.

“The content lends itself really well to being completely lit in the early evening,” Pasquale said in a release. “We have the largest football stadium in the world and as a performance venue it allows us to pay tribute and remember the anniversary in a unique, grand and respectful way.”

The Michigan Marching Band worked with Durant Design’s Tim Durant to create a similar light show for their halftime performance on Oct. 11, 2014, when the Wolverines played Penn State. (Robert Brown)

Each member of the 400-strong marching band will carry an illuminated device onto the field, including glowing orbs, illuminated umbrellas, high-powered flashlights and more. Some 275 marchers will twirl batons, spin flags and play instruments as ultraviolet light, lasers and other special effects will be on display.

Roughly 80 volunteers from U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School Marching Band and U-M band alumni will also be on hand.

“We’re telling the story of the strength and resiliency of America—we are much more alike than we are different,” said Pasquale in a release, who was a middle school teacher in September 2001 and personally knew several first responders in New York City. “We as Americans are a strong people. And we are stronger when we’re unified.”

Band returns to the field

The Michigan Marching Band spent the past 18 months on Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Saturday night’s game will be the second live halftime performance by this year’s ensemble.

Saturday’s program took more than six months to design and plan.

It was made possible by donors and marching band fans Bill and Janelle Sykes, whose son is a member of the trumpet section.

“We are honored to help bring the band’s vision to life on the field, in remembrance of the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” said the Sykes in a statement. “We admire the dedication of all members of the marching band and thank you for making our time at Michigan football games so special.”

John Pasquale, director of the Michigan Marching Band since 2013, took the field with the Michigan Marching Band for the first time since the 2019 season on Sept. 4, 2021. (Kristan Rodwell)

The Sept. 11, 2021 lineup includes:

  • “Summon The Heroes,” John Williams
  • “Mambo” (West Side Story), Leonard Bernstein
  • New York Medley: “New York State of Mind,” Billy Joel; and “Empire State of Mind,” Angela Hunte, Alicia Keys, Alexander Shuckburgh, Bert Keyes, Janet Sewell-Ulepic, Shawn Carter and Sylvia Robinson
  • “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • “This Land is Your Land/Stars and Stripes Forever,” Woody Guthrie, John Philip Sousa

Musical arrangements are by Jay Bocook, Scott Boerma and Chuck Ricotta. The band’s choreography is by Joan Noble-Pruett.

“I know there are a ton of marching bands doing commemorative shows on September 11 to honor those who were lost and survived in our country,” senior associate director of development and alumni relations for the marching band, Kimberly Baumgartner, said in a statement. “But our show is going to be the best. Unequivocally. No other band could do this.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.