You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 : 7:12 p.m.

Howard University's 'Showtime' Marching Band to perform at Rynearson

By Matt Durr

The pageantry of college football and the accompanying halftime show is one of the many thrilling parts of the fall sports calendar. On Saturday, one of the country’s most famous marching bands, The Howard University “Showtime” Marching Band will play at Rynearson Stadium during halftime of the 7 p.m. game against Eastern Michigan.

Known across the country for its dazzling performances, the “Showtime” band is usually the highlight of the night when Howard takes the field.

“What we try to do is make sure the fans are entertained in the course of our halftime show,” said John Newson the band’s director for 25 years.


The "Showtime" band is usually the highlight of the night when Howard takes the field.

Howard University

Newson took the job in 1986 when the band was known as the “Soul Steppers.” After a visit to California in 1988, the band became known as “Showtime.”

Close to 130 students play in the band and each of them have are part of the performance. With high-step marching, precision drills, flag demonstrations and dancing by the band, each week present a new challenge for its members.

The band meets as part of a class from 6 to 8 p.m. every weekday to work on its routines, spending 50 minutes inside a classroom and 50 minutes outside practicing. Each week demands a new performance that must be built from scratch.

“We probably do 4-5 shows a year. We can’t repeat a show here at home, we would probably get booed,” Newson jokes.

When in front of the home crowd, the “Showtime” band usually performs for about 10 minutes, with surprises thrown in for fans familiar with the band. This week at EMU however, the performance will be seven minutes long.

The band has a 70-30 split of females to males and is open to anyone on campus who have the skills necessary to contribute. The band is so popular, in fact, that the college can hand out up to 30 partial scholarships to members of the band.

In 2009, the band was asked to perform at the inauguration of President Barack Obama; a moment Newson called one of the biggest highlights of his career.

Newson is excited to showcase his band in front of the EMU crowd and to see what his competition brings to the table.

“It’s going to be a memorable halftime show. That will be worth the price of admission right there," said Ted Coutilish, assocaite vice president of marketing at EMU. “It's not just listening, it’s a show.”

EMU's own band, "The Pride of the Peninsula," will also be performing at halftime.

“What you have is two different styles of bands. It will be interesting to see Eastern’s band,” Newson said. “We hope the audience will be satisfied with our show.”