Meagan Vasel first saw the Big Red Marching Machine in action when she was in fifth grade.

Her oldest sister, Katie, was performing with the Illinois State marching band at the time. Meagan kept watching as her other sister, Amy, later came to ISU and became a leader in Big Red too.

“It was the coolest thing. It was so energetic, and so fun. I thought it would be so cool to be a part of,” Meagan said.

Her wish came true. Today, Meagan is a key member of Big Red, serving in the same drum major leadership role her sisters did. Together, the three Vasel sisters are part of an Illinois State marching band tradition that stretches back more than 80 years. Big Red, or BRMM, has 285 members this fall and thousands of alumni in its ranks.

The Vasel sisters come from musical roots. Their parents met in high school band, and both studied music in college. Their mother, Judy Vasel, teaches music in Bloomington-Normal. Dad Mark is a percussionist.

Growing up, some called their family the “Von Vasels,” after the Von Trapps from the musical The Sound of Music.

“It was inevitable that we all went into music,” Katie said.

Meagan is a junior music business major at Illinois State. Katie, a 2009 graduate, teaches band at Tri-City schools near Springfield. Amy, a 2012 graduate, teaches music in the Deer Creek-Mackinaw school district.

Amy and Katie joined their parents at the Redbird Homecoming game October 4, watching Meagan perform with Big Red.

“There’s that rich tradition that goes back for decades,” Mark said. “It’s just neat to be part of that whole tradition here, and for when our daughters graduate, to say they were a part of it too.”

Bob Tomaski can be reached at Ryan Denham can be reached at