From football field to stage at ‘PMB Live!’



The Panther Marching Band will perform at “PMB Live!” in the Great Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m.


On Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 P.M., the Panther Marching Band (PMB) will perform “PMB Live!” in the Great Hall of the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

The band is under the direction of Justin Mertz, associate director of bands and assistant professor in the School of Music.

“PMB Live, in short, is the Panther Marching Band in concert, and the whole point of it is to get the Panther Marching Band — which is made up of fine musicians from almost every major and program of study on campus — get them into a concert hall setting where you can really appreciate their work and their sound in an environment where they are the focus of attention,” Mertz said. “At a football game, they are sometimes the focus of attention, but it’s a very loud and chaotic environment like any football game would be […] But at an event like PMB Live, we can really put them front and center and recognize their high-level musicianship and their work.”

The music selections at PMB Live are the highlights of the shows they have performed throughout the semester. This year’s show will feature songs from PMB’s homecoming “Superheroes” set, 80’s music, the top pop music of 2018 and karaoke favorites.

Mertz consults with PMB’s student conductors and section leaders to determine which songs should end up in PMB Live. They make their final decisions based on factors like what the band enjoys playing and what their most successful songs of the season have been.

“We try really hard in the Panther Marching Band to program music and to perform shows that we think the audience will enjoy,” Mertz said. “There’s a very, very good community here campus-wide. And I think that the students here at UNI are really incredible about supporting each other, and that doesn’t happen at a lot of places. But here it does, and I think that’s a manifestation of how well students here support each other and how kind they are.”

This year, the opening act for PMB Live is the Waterloo West High School marching band. Mertz hopes to feature a school band every year during the show to highlight the community nature of music.

“College marching band is very different from high school marching band,” said Cole Malcolm, a senior economics major who plays trumpet for PMB. “High school marching band — they spend the entire season learning one nine-minute show, and in college band, every two weeks you have a new 15-minute show. It’s cool for [Waterloo West] to come to campus and get to see us play and get a little taste of everything we’ve played the entire year.”

GBPAC is much a smaller venue compared to the football field on which band is used to performing. Fitting the hundreds of members of PMB and their instruments onto the stage of the Great Hall is no small feat.

“Obviously, a football field is much larger than the Gallagher Bluedorn stage,” Malcolm said. “So that’s challenging, and then also that’s not a space we play in regularly […] We’re playing all of the music from the whole season, so the literal fatigue of playing can be a lot sometimes.”

Another difference between shows in the Dome and GBPAC is the standstill nature of the performance. In the UNI Dome, band members move and change formation throughout the performance. As Malcolm puts it, PMB Live is a “more intimate experience.”

Even though this is only Mertz’s second year directing PMB, he already has a great appreciation for the band.

“I’m a very, very lucky member of this faculty because I get to work with several hundred students from across the entire campus, and they are the finest students that I think UNI has to offer,” Mertz said. “In my also biased opinion, I think that the Panther Marching Band is the finest organization on this or any campus. And every day when I show up to PMB class/rehearsal, I am always excited to see what the students are up to and talk to them and laugh with them and there’s never a dull moment with them. They are a warm and caring and dynamic group of students, so it’s a real privilege to work with the Panther Marching Band.”

PMB Live is a ticketed event. Proceeds benefit UNI’s entire band program.