The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

‘Anybody who knows me knows I’m the world’s biggest marching band nerd’

Jon Sweet hired as Cougar Marching Band’s newest director
Cougar Marching Band’s new director Jon Sweet leading the band as they prepare to take the field for a pregame performance at a home WSU football game, Sept. 16, in Pullman, Wash.

Cougs and non-Cougs alike have seen Cougar logos spread across the field for the last few home football games, formed by over 200 members of WSU’s Cougar Marching Band. The one who directed these formations is Jon Sweet, the band’s newest director.

The CMB, which performs at all home football games, men’s and women’s home basketball games and women’s home volleyball games, has had Sweet as their new director for several weeks. Sweet said the band will also perform at approximately six soccer games this year.

Sweet said he intends to benefit WSU, the band, the students and the fans with every change he makes to the CMB.

When fans feel a connection to the Cougar head logo, it is not just something on the field, but also something they are, Sweet said. The fans do not just see the logo; they see their peers forming the logo, creating a feeling of pride and connection.

“We’re the heartbeat of what goes on during gameday. We want to make sure all the teams we support, whether it’s football, or volleyball, or basketball, or soccer, whatever it is, that those players feel energized and our fans feel energized,” Sweet said. “Keeping those traditions alive is paramount to what we do.”

Sweet said each halftime show will look different but remain a surprise to amp up the anticipation.

Sweet’s primary instruments are the euphonium and baritone horn. He received his undergraduate degree in music education from Abilene Christian University in Texas and his master’s and doctorate degrees in conducting from Stephen F. Austin State University and University of Kentucky, respectively.

He said by the time he was a finalist for the CMB director, he had researched the band. This research, alongside his experiences with the band during his application and interview process, greatly intrigued him. When he boarded a plane after one such experience in Pullman, he was convinced he would become the band’s director if offered.

After an approximately six-month-long application and interview process, Sweet said he was sold on becoming the CMB’s next director.

“Anybody who knows me knows I’m the world’s biggest marching band nerd. Ever since I was in high school, people were like, ‘Oh that’s Jon, he loves marching bands.’ I adore the activity. It’s a lot of fun,” Sweet said. “I think it’s providential that I got to come here and teach at this awesome place.”

Under Sweet, CMB’s traditions will proceed but also acquire enhancements, he said. The band is also unearthing and constructing their own traditions as time progresses.

Current traditions include the majority of the football pregame songs, the newly-added Cougar head logo formation during pregames and the in-band custom of singing “Washington, My Washington,” Sweet said. However, there are many additions, including the “Cougars” script formation, the playing of “America The Beautiful” during the pregame performance and the “Go Cougs Go” song, a parody of the Chiacgo Cubs’ “Go Cubs Go.”

Sweet said he appreciates variety and change, even in the food the band eats.

“This band used to eat a whole lot of sandwiches all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to make sure we had variety,” Sweet said.

Birch and Barley catered at the first WSU football game this year. Sweet said working with local businesses like Birch and Barley is beneficial for both the band and the businesses.

“Entertaining our fans is so important to what we do,” Sweet said.

Walter Pittson, drum major for the band and graduate student majoring in music education, said Sweet is great because he is an energetic leader carrying amazing goals.

Some of Sweet’s goals seemingly belong in the stratosphere, Pittson said. However, the band is rising to a new level with Sweet’s leadership. Sweet’s goals are sometimes challenging, and while the band may not reach them today or tomorrow, they will certainly attain them with Sweet’s skillful leadership.

Sweet is emotionally honest and supports everyone regardless of skill level, Pittson said. Beginners quickly transform into rich performers.

“I wanted to make sure the student experience was outstanding. The most important thing to me is that our students get to experience not just a high-level education, a high-level performance, but in everything that we do, I want to make sure that they’re experiencing the band as positive,” Sweet said. “Even when we’re working hard, it’s positive. When we’re being challenged and things don’t feel like they’re going our way, we find ways.”

Sweet said his family holds a long line of teachers, which likely contributes to his love of watching others succeed and helping them realize their potential.

Before the first WSU football game, Sweet told the band that, “Christmas for me is watching you all finish a performance.”

“[The performance at the first football game] was the best Christmas gift I’ve gotten in performances in a long, long, long, long time,” Sweet said.

Sweet does it all for the students, he said. After band members graduate, they are the ones who ensure music stays alive in Pacific Northwest public schools.

Retention has always been one of Sweet’s major goals, Pittson said. Thanks to Sweet, everyone wants to be part of the ensemble.

“People don’t get how cool WSU is. They don’t get how cool Pullman is until they come here and experience it for themselves. I got to experience it in the best way possible at my first football game last Saturday, and I mean for crying out loud, beating Wisconsin was great,” Sweet said. “My last job was at [Purdue University]. I lost to Wisconsin the last six years at Purdue, and I come here and we finally win. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.”

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About the Contributors
JULIA MESSEGEE, Evergreen reporter
Julia, who goes by Jules, is a sophomore from the Seattle area pursuing a degree in computer science at WSU Pullman. She started working at the Daily Evergreen in fall 2022. She enjoys writing about various topics and her hobbies, programming and journalism, are what led her to work in journalism while majoring in a STEM field.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.

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  • Robert WilliamsSep 26, 2023 at 4:40 pm

    Well done Mr. Sweet, well done. I really enjoyed your presence this last weekend at the Inaugural Go Cougs flight and marching band presentations at the airport, on the field and in the Presidents Suite during the WSU/OSU game.