More Than Music

Year: 2020

More Than Music is a publication created as part of the graphic design senior capstone at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For this project, current members and alumni of the fourteen Big Ten Conference marching bands were asked, “What is one memory from your time in college band that you will never forget?” The marching band is an important community for many young musicians as they transition from high school, through college, and into the real world; as such, the goal of the project was to highlight a side of the collegiate marching band experience that audience members don’t often get to see—the camaraderie, support, hard work, laughter, and pride that exist among band members. 

A hard copy of the book was printed through Blurb and features an image-wrap hardcover and 140 full-color pages.

Read the book on Issuu >>



Gallery Exhibition Design

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spring Capstone Exhibition in UNL’s Eisentrager-Howard Gallery was cancelled. The display plan for this project (right) was to show the printed book alongside a few items from the University of Nebraska Bands’ collection. The Cornhusker Marching Band uniform was included because parts of the jacket were used as visual assets in the page design. The two other items were chosen because they were given as gifts to the CMB and are examples of camaraderie among Big Ten marching bands. The following are descriptions that would have been posted next to the items:

Gifted to the Cornhusker Marching Band by the Marching Illini during the CMB’s visit to Illinois in 2015. It is signed by the members of the 2015 Marching Illini and includes a welcome message from director Barry L. Houser, which reads, “Welcome Cornhusker Marching Band! We hope you have a great time on campus and enjoy the sights and sounds of our version of Memorial Stadium! We are glad you are here! All the best!”

Gifted to the Cornhusker Marching Band by the University of Minnesota Marching Band during the UMMB’s visit to Nebraska in 2018. This was the Minnesota band’s first conference road trip in over 20 years.

Current uniform coat worn by the Cornhusker Marching Band.



Marching band was a prominent part of my college experience, in large part due to the community surrounding it. When it came time to choose a project for my senior thesis, I was a week into my final season on the field, and I wanted to make something that showcased what I loved most about band.

A wonderful thing about the marching band community is that it extends nationwide, and I was interested in including multiple schools in my project. I am a member of a Facebook group for Big Ten band members and alumni, and over the years I have seen how people of different ages and from different schools have bonded over common band experiences, lamented the woes of football season together, and offered support to one another in times of need. Sure, the rivalries can get heated, but that’s all in good fun. I wanted to include all fourteen of the Big Ten marching bands in my project to highlight that many band members share common values and experiences, though they come from a variety of places.


The first step was research, in the form of a survey. The survey (posted in September 2019) collected stories from Big Ten band members and alumni, as well as information including when they were in band and which school they attended. The purpose was to explore what commonalities appeared in the submissions, especially between different schools and age groups.


The survey link was posted to my personal Facebook profile, the “2019 Cornhusker Marching Band” Facebook group (approximately 310 members), and the “I’m a Member of a Big Ten Marching Band” Facebook group (approximately 9,600 members). The post was also shared to the “Cornhusker Marching Band Alumni” Facebook group (approximately 1,300 members) by a Nebraska alum. 

Within the first six days, the survey received 89 responses, with 51% coming from Nebraska Cornhusker Marching Band members and alumni. This was not a surprise, due to my personal connections to many Nebraska band members and alumni. After the sixth day, the survey link was posted again to “I’m a Member of a Big Ten Marching Band” in an attempt to collect more responses from the other Big Ten schools. 

The survey was closed after two more days and received a total of 135 responses, which were used for the original data analysis and thesis proposal. Several months into the project, the survey was reopened for the purpose of collecting more stories and received 12 additional responses. The data analysis has been updated to include those responses.

Data Analysis

The following analyzes the results of each survey question. In total, the survey received 147 submissions. The University of Nebraska received the most responses of the fourteen schools in the conference.

Which Big Ten school did you attend/are you attending?

University of Nebraska – 47 responses (32%)

University of Minnesota – 15 (10.2%)

Purdue University – 14 (9.5%)

University of Illinois – 13 (8.8%)

University of Iowa – 9 (6.1%)

The Ohio State University – 8 (5.4%)

Indiana University – 7 (4.8%)

Michigan State University – 7 (4.8%)

University of Michigan – 6 (4.1%)

Northwestern University – 6 (4.1%)

Penn State University – 6 (4.1%)

University of Wisconsin – 6 (4.1%)

University of Maryland – 2 (1.4%)

Rutgers University – 1 (0.7%)

In which decade was your last year of marching band?

118 responses were from current band members or recent alumni (last year in band was between 2010-2019). This is likely due to current members and younger alumni being more active on social media in general, particularly in the Big Ten bands Facebook group. The remaining 29 responses were from alumni whose last year of marching band was in the 2000s, 1990s, and 1980s. 


Currently in band  – 59 responses (40.1%) 

Last year was in 2010s – 59 (40.1%) 

2000s – 11 (7.5%) 

1990s – 12 (8.2%) 

1980s – 6 (4.1%)

Which instrument(s) did you play?

Piccolo players were the most represented instrument group out of survey respondents, followed by mellophone, trumpet, alto saxophone, and clarinet. The option to choose multiple instruments was provided (as students sometimes switch during their collegiate band career), and nine respondents choose two instruments. Three of those respondents selected both flute and piccolo, which contributed to the high number of flute/piccolo players.

Respondents were also given the option to input a category that was not included on the list, which resulted in the categories of Undergraduate Staff, Flugelhorn, Big Ten Flag Corps, and Graduate Assistant.

Please tell me ONE memory or story from your time in college band. It can be anything that has stuck with you over the years—something you will never forget.

Each respondent was asked to submit one memory from their time in college marching band. The intent was to find out which common themes appeared among the memories, especially between different bands. The most common theme (63 responses, 42.9%) was that of performances and football games, including positive interactions with and support from fans; the experience of marching the band’s pregame show in front of a live audience for the first time; winning important games/big upsets; and bowl game performances. The next most common theme (49 responses, 33.3%) had to do with friendships formed in band, including spending time together during trips; bonding during band camp; finding support in one another after a tragedy; and having positive interactions with other marching bands. The remaining responses mentioned enjoyment of specific trip locations and sightseeing (12 responses, 8.2%), as well as enduring extreme weather events (7 responses, 4.8%). Fourteen of the submissions (9.5%) referenced a variety of topics, which didn’t fit with the previously listed themes. These stories were grouped into a category labeled “Other.”

The option was given for respondents to submit a photo along with their memory, for use in the book. Sixty-seven respondents (45.6%) chose to submit a photo.

I give permission for my final submission and photo to be presented publicly as part of the final product.

The final three questions on the survey dealt with usage and contact permissions. Permission was asked to use the memories in the book, with the options provided being “yes,” “no,” and “yes, but omit my name.” The majority of respondents answered “yes.”


Yes: 120 respondents (81.6%)

No: 7 (4.8%)

Yes, but omit my name: 20 (13.6%)

Are you willing to be contacted for potential follow-up questions about your submission?

Respondents were also asked if they would be willing to be contacted for follow-up questions based on their submission. This was done in case a story was considered for use in the final product but required elaboration. (i.e. Why did they choose that particular memory

and how did it make them feel?) The majority of respondents answered “yes.”

Yes: 129 responses (87.8%)

No: 18 (12.2%)

Organizing the Stories

Once the submissions had been collected, the next task was to organize them. Since the project’s purpose was to emphasize common experiences among different bands, the stories were sorted by topic, similarly to what was discussed in the data analysis, but broken down further. Eventually, nine chapters emerged:

  1. Making the Band (the audition process and getting in)

  2. First Game Day (first time marching pregame/interacting with an audience)

  3. Band Family (making friends, fun times together)

  4. Support System (support in the face of tragedy)

  5. Big Ten Bond (positive experiences meeting fellow Big Ten bands)

  6. Traditions (participating in traditions and inside jokes)

  7. Team Spirit (interacting and celebrating with fans and the football team)

  8. Shows to Remember (memorable performances)

  9. World Stage (once-in-a-lifetime performance opportunities)

It should be noted that not all submissions were included in the book (67 of 147 were used); some were excluded at the request of respondents, and others were left out due to lack of context. 

Within each chapter, stories were paired with another containing similar content and placed on a spread together. Stories that had a large amount of text as well as a photo were placed on their own spread, and some shorter stories were highlighted in large text on their own spread.


Additional sections in the book include an introduction, a list of all of the bands in the conference and their nicknames, acknowledgments, an “about the curator (author)” section, four pages of bonus photos that were submitted but their accompanying stories not used, end notes, and photo credits.

Visual Assets

Photos from the respondents’ submissions were used alongside their relative stories. Photos were also acquired from several bands’ official photographers; some were given under a free personal use agreement, and others were purchased online. I wanted to ensure that every band was represented visually, especially those that didn’t have many submitted photos.

One of the first concepts for the book involved a nostalgic, scrapbook feel. The original plan was to use photos of each school’s uniform. I photographed my Nebraska band uniform, but only a few schools responded to the request for photos (Illinois, Michigan, and Purdue). I still wished to move ahead with this idea, so I was forced to get creative. I was able to find photos of a few Maryland band memorabilia items (pins, band letter), and I went to ShutterStock for photos of instruments, which expanded my options, though not ideal.

Pictured above (left to right): Uniform details from the University of Nebraska, the University of Illinois, and Purdue University.

Above: All photos were treated with a vintage effect to create a more unified look in terms of color..


The original plan for the color palette was to use the school colors of the Big Ten Conference. However, it turned out that all of the basic colors are used at least once among all the schools. Next, I tried to only use the most common colors (red, blue, black, yellow), but that excluded schools like Northwestern (whose primary color is purple) and Michigan State (whose primary color is green). Additionally, the particular shades that were in play at that moment were all very basic and saturated. They were uninspiring to work with, and after struggling for a long time, I abandoned the idea of using school colors and tweaked the palette into something that was more versatile and pleasing to the eye.

Page Design Evolution


© 2020 by Miranda Finn.