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Sweet harmony

Bands, ensembles welcome students from all disciplines

Kyle Girven is a double major in aerospace engineering and mathematics with minors in astronomy and physics. Jess Novak is majoring in environmental science with minors in nuclear engineering, environmental engineering and geology.

The NMSU May 2024 graduating seniors came together through music.

“Our bands are open to any student on campus,” says Michael Mapp ’05, NMSU music professor and director of bands. “For an engineering student or a biochemistry student, where there’s a rigorous course load, it’s nice to go to a class that’s an hour and a half of having fun just making music and being able to relax from the stresses of their academic rigor.”

Out of 250 students in the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band, 63% are science and engineering majors and 10% are music majors, while the rest are pursuing a variety of other majors. 

Girven and Novak have played in the Pride Band and several other NMSU
Department of Music ensembles throughout their college years.

“The main appeal of music is that you are putting yourself into a community that is very rewarding,” Novak says. “You feel it in the moment when you have a concert, when you have a performance, you get to feel the excitement of everybody around you.”

“I think what made me keep coming back to it was the people and the experience,” Girven says. “Most of my friends that I’ve made in college, I’ve met through the ensembles, especially the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band.” 

It’s common for non-music majors to participate in musical ensembles on campus, with as many as 30-50% of the participants enrolled in other majors, according to Mapp. But the NMSU Department of Music also welcomes alumni and community members through its outreach programs. 

Among Mapp’s many roles, he conducts the Mesilla Valley Concert Band, which is largely made up of NMSU alumni who rehearse every week for community performances. 

Scott ’89 and Cindy McLaughlin ’92, who play in the Mesilla Valley Concert Band, came together in the 1980s thanks to the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band. The pair met in London in December 1986, performing with the Pride Band in London’s 1987 New Year’s Day Parade. They married later that year.

Scott McLaughlin, New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director, received his degree in electrical engineering, while Cindy McLaughlin received her degree in geological sciences with a licensure to teach secondary education. She taught middle school science for many years.

“I’m glad that NMSU provides a broader experience for everybody. It’s a very fun, shared experience with my wife,” Scott McLaughlin said. “We’ve both played in concert band for years and years. It’s something we get to do together, but it’s also a chance to focus in on something other than work and really dive into concentrating on the moment, being present in the moment.”

The McLaughlins left Las Cruces for 25 years, but returned about six years ago and rejoined the community band, which also includes some NMSU students.

“In college, music gave me a break from my studies and gave me a sense of family,” Cindy McLaughlin says.

“When a student first steps foot on campus, one of the first things they may hear is the marching band practicing,” Mapp says. “The NMSU bands represent an integral part of what it means to be at New Mexico State University. It’s the first thing students hear when they get here, and it’s the last thing they’ll hear as they’re getting their diploma.”

“We’re fortunate that New Mexico State considers this part of their mission and always has,” Scott McLaughlin says. “It’s hard to imagine living my life without music.”

Cindy (left) and Scott McLaughlin met on a Pride Band trip. They are members of the Mesilla Valley Concert Band, which includes a large number of NMSU graduates.

Cindy (left) and Scott McLaughlin met on a Pride Band trip. They are members of the Mesilla Valley Concert Band, which includes a large number of NMSU graduates. 

Mesilla Valley Concert Band practicing.

Mesilla Valley Concert Band practicing.