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    After yearlong layoff, Michigan Marching Band ready to make loud return for football

    Ann Arbor — When the Big Ten reversed course and reinstated a shortened football season last fall, that hardly signaled a return to normal.

    The COVID-19 pandemic limited athletic seasons, but it completely wiped out a year of the Michigan Marching Band. Nearly 100 seniors lost a chance to perform one final time. Now, the band returns with 411 students — the minimum is typically 380 — after a two-week camp to prepare for the football season, which kicks off Saturday when the Wolverines host Western Michigan.

    “We’re ready to get the band back together, both figuratively and literally,” John Pasquale, director of Michigan’s marching and athletic bands, said this week. “We are just ready to go. We are ready to put it out there.”

    Pasquale said the band is ahead of where he thought it would be considering the long layoff and there is an eagerness to get back in Michigan Stadium, although they’ve held a few practices there. Last season, there were no fans, no bands at games, no pageantry, no electricity in the sterile, cavernous Big Ten stadiums.

    “We didn’t know what to expect, as did probably every entity on campus trying to figure out how is this going to go,” Pasquale said of the return of the band members and the addition of 100 first-year participants. “But it went so much better than I thought just in terms of how they came back ready to go and their excitement level and their performance level. It was a bit overwhelming at first. It almost kind of gets you choked up a little bit.”

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