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Marching to the Beat of Boise State: The Blue Thunder On and Off the Blue

Whose rehearsals block off the blacktop in the late summer? Who keeps time to the click of the metronome from the Blue, and forms the “B” at the beginning of Boise State football games? It’s the Keith and Catherine Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band! For its student members, the feeling of performing for audiences of thousands is unmatched.

Martin Cuntz with instrument in his Blue Thunder uniform
Martin Cuntz, a sousaphonist pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Biology

“We’re such a big group. We bring fun for the fans and for the people who come for the band,” said Martin Cuntz, a sousaphonist pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Biology. “You don’t know how much you mean to the community until you’re on the field for the first time.” Martin Cuntz

The Blue Thunder got its start in the 1980s with a $250,000 gift from Keith and Catherine Stein, who noted that there hadn’t been a marching band at Boise State since the 1970s, and saw the potential for one as a permanent feature of the university. Students have upheld that legacy ever since, mastering their instruments, forming a tight-knit community that has made it a signal part of Boise State events, and contributing to each other’s academic and personal success.

The Blue Thunder brings excellence in music, movement, and signature passion to each performance. Behind the scenes are thousands of hours of practice. Bandmates return to campus in August, weeks before the new semester. During the semester, rehearsal is three times a week, and the preparation time for a game is comparable to a nine-to-five job. Outside of football games, the Blue Thunder polishes its shows for different audiences, like the District III Mel Shelton Marching Festival in October, where, hosting on Bronco soil, it performs an extended 30-minute showcase for other visiting bands.

Amy Johnson directing Blue Thunder Marching Band
Amy Johnson, a student earning her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and drum major for the Blue Thunder Marching Band.

Trombonist Amy Johnson, a student earning her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, said the band rehearses “constantly.” A drum major for three of her four seasons with the band, Johnson sees its drive from the top of the podium.

“We put in a lot of work,” she said. “People see glimpses of it, but it’s a big commitment.”Amy Johnson

Being a member of Blue Thunder helps students grow as bandmates and students, learning about professionalism and managing their priorities. Refining skills in teamwork and leadership, they come together on the field for practice and off-field for study sessions and social events.

Video: Boise State Blue Thunder Marching Band

Closed captions are available and a video transcript is provided at the end of this page.

“There’s a lot of benefit the students receive from being in the Blue Thunder Marching Band,” said Director of Athletic Bands Joe Tornello. “Growth, as musicians, and as young adults: Showing up, being responsible, time management. Not doing just enough to get through, but excelling to become the best version of themselves.”

With more than 180 student members, the band is practically an extended family and a source of lasting companionship. Johnson said it fosters a big network of support, which is a boon to first-year and out-of-state students looking for connection, or to find their footing in college. Certainly, the Blue Thunder’s sense of coterie is a hallmark that separates it from the rest.

On the Blue and throughout Boise, the Keith and Catherine Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band brings Broncos, friends and fans together through music and energy. These student members said Boise State has a rare and remarkable fan-base when it comes to support for their shows. Audiences bring the enthusiasm, and the band brings the sound — it isn’t called the Blue Thunder for nothing.

“The community is heartwarming, the fans are amazing, the music is top-level,” Cuntz said. “There’s nothing like it.”Martin Cuntz

About the Author: Lily Tindle-Hardy

Lily Tindle-Hardy

Lily Tindle-Hardy is a student communications specialist/writer within University Advancement. Lily is a junior studying English, and she recently transferred to Boise State after earning an associate of arts from Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Ore. She assists the UA Comms team with writing projects, including donor stories, and capturing the student’s “voice” in impact features.

Video Transcript

*rousing marching band music*

My name is Amy. I am a fourth year member in the Blue Thunder Marching Band. I am getting a degree in Environmental Studies, and I am one of the drum majors for the band. As a drum major, we’re always up in front of 200 people at any given time, and so it really makes you aware of your presence and who you are, and all of those leadership skills that come with it. Each student in the Blue Thunder Marching Band is on a scholarship, and depending if you’re out-of-state, or in-state, out of state students get their out of state tuition waiver.

My name is Martin Cuntz. I’m currently a fourth year sousaphone player for the Blue Thunder Marching Band. Other than the Blue Thunder scholarship, I’m getting my out of state waiver. We did a tour with Joe and Bill here in the band room, and it was the most heartwarming thing ever, and I immediately wanted to join. So I auditioned and here I am.

My name is Joe Tornello, Director of Athletic Bands, and in particular, Keith and Catherine Stein Blue Thunder Marching Band. For me, there’s a lot of things I really enjoy about the Blue Thunder. To be outdoors and make music is a great energizing factor for me. The progress that they make from the time that they audition and enter the program as a freshman to the time that they graduate… Seeing that growth of students as musicians and just young adults is really rewarding.

*marching band music*

[Amy] You are doing really hard things with really cool people. And, that just like, instantly creates bonds.

[Joe] The students are able to connect with one another pretty quickly. Especially during our band camp that starts about two weeks before school. They’re spending 12 hours a day together, so they spend a lot of time. They’re working hard throughout that.

[Amy] Getting that family right away…. You just have a really big support system immediately coming into college.

[Martin] The community is so heartwarming. The fans are amazing. The music that you get to perform is top level. As soon as you step on that field for your first time, it feels like you’re doing something that not many other people can.

*marching band music*

[Martin] The community and the friends and the memories that you gain during this experience is something that you will never be able to get doing something else.

*marching band music* *crowd cheers*

[Joe] When a student is looking at Boise State and they can come to a game day and put themselves in that atmosphere, it’s hard to turn that down. You know, it’s an opportunity that you’re going to get to do that as a collegiate student, be a part of that energy…

[Amy] I always tell them to come to D3 because that will convince them, hands down. At football games, the crowd is interested and you get a good reaction, but there is nothing like the reaction from a stadium full of high school band kids.

*marching band music*

[Joe] For the Blue Thunder, it’s a tremendous audience. The crowd gets what they’re doing.

[Amy] It’s super magical. And, they just go crazy for our whole performance.

*marching band music climaxes and ends* *crowd cheers*