There’s only one person in the state who can be introduced as the Voice of the (Cornhusker Marching) Band.
And the Voice – Nolan Schmit – relishes that role. And once you understand his background, you will for sure see why he’s the perfect person to be the Voice.
He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in music (with an emphasis in composition) and was in the CMB, playing tenor saxophone. Schmit teaches General Music K-5 at Arnold Elementary School and has been with the Lincoln Public Schools since 2000.
“It’s a pretty simple life,” Schmit said. He and his wife, Barb, have three kids – one at UNL and two at Lincoln East. “Go to work. Go to the kids’ stuff.”
Schmit also continues to compose new works. The first piece he ever wrote was in the second grade. There was a class composition, “Here comes the Easter Bunny,” and after the class project, Schmit went home and wrote his own version. He started arranging for pep band when he was in Fremont High School. He studied with Robert Beadell and Randy Snyder at UNL.
“There are just sometimes things I want to say. I love the written word and I love to write words, and that’s a great medium. But there are other things that you can’t say any other way,” said Schmit, who writes mostly for concert bands and chamber works (winds and percussion). “I feel it’s a way to make the world a better place. My parents always encouraged me to do something I would be proud of doing, something I would feel good about doing – honest work, noble work.
“I love hearing notes come to life,” he continued. “It’s like bringing a moment of the past alive. It’s almost like time travel to me. It’s beauty. It’s the excitement. It can be emotionally difficult, and when I finish a piece, I’m exhausted and I often cry, like a sense of mourning.”
To compose, Schmit hears colors and thinks that way and with abstract ideas. He will also think of a theme and improvise. Sometimes, he will go for a walk and start humming, and maybe the pace of the walk with help feed it. On a side note, he’s been working on a symphony orchestra piece since 2013.
But for many of us, you’ve probably heard Schmit’s booming voice – “It’s Showtime!” – as the CMB takes the field for pre-game. Then you hear it again as the band performs its halftime set. Schmit’s been in the role since 2003, replacing Mike Veak.
Schmit found out about being the Voice from a former Band Graduate student, Christopher Werner, who has since passed away (Schmit is dedicating the above-mentioned symphony orchestra piece to him).
“Also Lance Nielsen (who is now the music curriculum specialist for LPS) and I had been interested in the marching band for a long time. We drove a Ryder truck to three bowl games (Rose, Fiesta and Alamo) for the band. Chris knew how much I loved being around it.”
Schmit recorded a script and turned it into the CMB staff. After about three weeks, he received a call while in a meeting at LPS, telling him he was now the Voice. He couldn’t believe it!
“I was so touched that they trusted me to do this,” said Schmit, who has had some of his elementary students continue playing and go on to be members of the CMB. “To know that I was going to be around the band again was very exciting.”
The big parts of the script for what is said about the CMB when it takes the field at Memorial Stadium have remained intact for a long time. But the emphasis on the words have changed with Schmit at the helm. Director of the CMB, Tony Falcone, told Schmit to make it his own.
“Mike was more deliberate and proper, while I’m more trying to pump up the energy in the stadium,” Schmit said.
But being a part of the collective of the band itself is one of Schmit’s favorite parts.
“It’s like coming home and getting to be around your people,” he said, referring to when he either gets to travel to an away game or a bowl game, or even hang out in Memorial Stadium with the CMB.
As for being the Voice, it’s fun to Schmit.
“Friends of mine, when they introduce me to new people, they say ‘This is Nolan, the Voice of the Band.’ It’s one of the first things they say all the time. It’s never Nolan, nice guy or Nolan, who teaches, it’s Nolan, the Voice of the Band. Maybe it gives them some street cred or something.
“On game day, I’m so juiced and just can’t wait to do it. I see the fans and I hear the roar of the crowd. I feel like I’m super lucky. I only think – just don’t let your voice crack.”