There was a certain excitement in the air at the March 19 rehearsal for Baltimore's Marching Ravens. After nearly 10 years, the band was finally getting fitted for brand new uniforms.
The band debuted the current purple and black uniforms back on Aug. 19, 1998, coinciding with the Colts' Band transformation into Baltimore's Marching Ravens.
Every uniform in the band's 61-year history is currently on display at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, stretching back to 1947 and representing the All-America Football Conference's Baltimore Colts, the 1950 NFL Baltimore Colts, the 1953 NFL Baltimore Colts, the CFL Baltimore Stallions and now the Ravens.
The drive for new uniforms began about a year ago when band president John Ziemann noticed the current ones were not looking as nice as they once had.
"It was time for a new look," Ziemann said. "We had the old uniforms for 10 years. Most high school and college band uniforms are built to last seven years."
The process was a long one, but by industry standards, it was actually quite expedient. Marching Ravens vice president Bill Turcan said "the uniforms were on a fast track. To do the measurements tonight and have them ready for the fall is pretty quick."
Gabrielle Dow, vice president of marketing, and Megan Collins, manager of game entertainment and events, spearheaded the new edgy look at the executive level. Ziemann noted that they were an integral part of the process and really helped move it along at as quick a pace as possible.
"If not for the major support from the Baltimore Ravens, these uniforms would not be a reality," he said.
Ziemann, Turcan and Jill Joubert, Marching Ravens equipment crew administrative director, brainstormed the initial set of ideas for the new uniforms, and the Ravens organization offered its feedback as well. Stanbury Uniforms provided about a dozen different sketches and three prototypes before everyone finally decided on "the one."
Bids to design and manufacture the new uniforms came in from several marching band uniform companies, but Stanbury won due to their reputation for durability, cooperation, innovative design and a guarantee that the uniforms will last 10 years. Turcan said, "We went right back to the people who make uniforms we know will last." This is the third set of uniforms Stanbury has done for the Colts Band/Marching Ravens.
Stanbury has been in the marching band uniform business since 1915, and the Brookfield, Mo.-based company has been employee-owned since 1994. They have designed and manufactured uniforms for some of the most famous marching bands in the land, including University of Michigan, USC and Morgan State, as well as Division I drum corps such as Phantom Regiment and the Bluecoats.
Regional sales manager Mike Pearson was on hand to measure each member of the Marching Ravens for their own custom-fitted uniform. Pearson, a 26-year veteran of Stanbury, has no marching band background of his own, but the former teacher's father was a music teacher.
Pearson said that everyone at Stanbury is already familiar with the band after working on two prior uniforms. "Our company is very excited about the opportunity. Everybody is on Cloud 9."
According to Ziemann, "the new uniforms have a more modern feel. We put them on mannequins and tested them on the field to see what they would look like.
"I feel the fans will be very, very pleased, as the design reflects back on them, the team, and the city."
The staff, equipment crew and medical crew are all receiving new threads, too, and will parallel the look of band. Even Ravens mascot Poe jumped in line to get a band uniform of his own.
Marcel Gwynn, a Marching Ravens drum major since 2000, is looking forward to his new uniform, which will differ slightly from that of the rest of the band. The biggest variations are the color of the jacket (which helps them stand out on the field) and capes.
"I'm digging the cape," Gwynn said with a laugh. "The cape is sexy."
To take advantage of the custom fitting, Gwynn requested that his new uniform be cut a little bigger through the chest and shoulders to allow him to move his arms more freely while conducting.
"I like the look," Gwynn said while admiring the nearby sample. "They're edgy. I think [the fans] will like it – they'll be surprised."
Of the new look, which is set to debut at the Ravens' first home game of 2008, Turcan stated, "we made a signature change."
Prompted for his reaction to the new style, trumpet player Matt Magsamen looked thoughtful before replying, "new year…new coach…new team…new band."