When Stevenson University launched a football program in 2011, president Kevin Manning decided the university should offer a total game-day experience.
Manning, an Ohio State alumnus, suggested that what the school needed to complete the college football atmosphere was a marching band.
"Four years ago, when we were staffing a football team, we thought [a marching band] would be an excellent way to complement the program," Manning said. "Since then, it has become a great crowd pleaser at the football games. And it certainly is something the students in the marching band are really proud to be in and enjoy the experience."
After three years of existence, the Stevenson marching band has already made a name for itself. The Mustangs participated in and won the Reisterstown Festival parade, and the band has a successful participation rate.
Band director Mark Lortz said the average size of a college marching band was about 1 percent of the school's population. Lortz said the marching band at Stevenson, a Division III school, had about 3-3.5 percent of the school's population involved. The key to the high participation rate is including anyone who wants to play, Lortz said.
"My philosophy when I first got here was I wanted to make it an all-inclusive group," Lortz said. "We took in students who didn't have experience, but hired adjunct faculty to assist me in the program. The students were able to get individualized instruction. … A lot of students wanted to be a part of the group and the school sprit, so we decided to include everybody."
When the marching band first got its start in 2011, it had about 75 students involved, Lortz said. Now, the band has 130 students -- a number Lortz said he expected to continue to grow.
The ability to build the band from the ground up was part of what brought Lortz to Stevenson, he said.
"I liked the challenge," Lortz said. "I have always been a part of programs that have been established. But going in there and being able to have a fresh, clean slate has really taught me a lot. I think when you have new students, you have to encourage, and you have to change your personality. … You have to be really encouraging and patient. And that really helped me. It's been exciting to do that."
In addition to playing at football games, the Stevenson marching band performs at school events, including convocations, open houses and pep rallies. The band also performs in high school band shows, which Lortz said offered more exposure and helped recruit new members. In 2013, the Mustangs performed at the USBands Championships at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Lortz said he hoped that as the band continued to grow, it could reach a national championship game with the football team and participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
"The administration, university and Dr. Manning really have a vision for the entire university," Lortz said, "and we are going to go as far as we can and push things as much as possible."