ISU welcomes new Big Red Marching Machine Director Polly Middleton
Director of the Big Red Marching Machine Polly Middleton is getting the band ready for their first performance of the season at the Redbird Football home opener. Not only is it the first of the season, but it will be her first as director, a little less than two months since being named to the post.
Even though she is new to the program, she is confident. Middleton says that in her short time here the Big Red Marching Machine has lived up to its namesake. Band members are quickly learning the moves and music necessary to put on more great performances.
Middleton has ample experience getting marching bands into playing shape. Before coming to Illinois State she worked with bands at Virginia Tech and Arkansas State. When she saw this particular opportunity come available, she just couldn’t pass it up.
Middleton is from Normal and has deep ties to the area. All four of her grandparents are ISU alums and her parents still live and work here. Middleton knew that not only she would be overseeing a great program, but doing so in a great community.
“There is industry, there is education, so there are the advantages of a bigger town, but you also get the advantages of a smaller community,” she said.
Middleton has a lot of strong goals for the program going forward. She has worked closely with recently appointed Director of Bands Anthony Marinello to maintain the culture and history of the program, but also push it to the future.
She says that to many people the Big Red Marching Machine is an ambassador for the music program as a whole. It is important that the band looks and sounds their very best every single week. However, both recognize that performances come from more than just technical skill. They are the result of a powerful community that the Big Red Marching Machine has created and maintained over the decades.
“Illinois State University bands are a family,” Marinello said. “We tell students on the first day, ‘Look around. These are going to be some of your best friends that you are going to have for the rest of your life.’ ”
Middleton agrees. The band just finished up their yearly band camp, which puts students together from nine in the morning to nine at night playing music and working on the performances on the field. She has watched this family of performers continue to grow in real time.
“It’s a great support system,” she said. “It’s a family atmosphere, we want to make sure students feel included and know how important they are to what we do. Students come and see this really big campus, but once they get involved in activities, it becomes small for them. And that helps them going forward.”