Spreading her wings: resident becomes member of Ravens marching band

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

SALISBURY — For Madison Smith, the marching band has always been like a family and on May 1, she will report for orientation to Baltimore, Maryland, where she will spread her wings and become a member of another band family, the Marching Ravens.

This will be her ninth year marching, playing her flute, as she was a member of both the West Rowan High School and Catawba College marching bands for four years each and now as an official member of the NFL Baltimore Ravens’ band, thus marking her ninth year.

During her high school and college years, she held additional positions including being on the uniform staff her junior and senior years in high school, head of the uniform committee and member of the properties committee her junior year in college and band captain and head of the uniform committee her senior year in college.

When she first got the word of making it into the Marching Ravens, she said what ran through her mind was absolute joy, “and then I sprinted out of my room to tell my family,” where she got a group hug. “They were proud of me,” she said of her family, mom, Angela Thompson; stepdad, Larry Thompson; and siblings, Megan Smith, Matthew Smith, Malachi Smith and JoEllen Thompson.

Smith said she grew up surrounded by music as her two older siblings, Megan and Matthew, were also in the band at West Rowan High School, and therefore, “I witnessed a lot of band concerts, so I always wanted to play,” she said, “and I really enjoyed watching marching and stuff.”

Watching her sister and brother enjoy being a part of the band piqued her interest in selecting an instrument of her own.

While Smith has taken both piano and violin lessons and taught herself to play the saxophone as well as having taken singing lessons, she said that the flute is definitely her main instrument.

“Music has always just been a very big part of my life,” she said.

She first learned of the band and auditions being held while watching one of the Baltimore Ravens’ football games last year, which she said is her favorite team, and something very familiar caught her eye in the background, a shako and a plume.

“I was, hey, I wear that every weekend,” and so she Googled ‘does the Baltimore Ravens have a marching band,’ and discovered they are one of two professional teams that have full marching bands.

She proceeded to put her name in to receive information concerning an audition they were holding, and when the application process opened up, she applied and was approved for an audition.

Scheduled for the end of March, Smith said she drove up to Baltimore where she performed multiple things for the audition, including scales, two short pieces and some sight reading plus some box drills while playing a B flat scale and setting drill and marching it.

Through the audition process, Smith said she was really nervous and was hoping that she would get it. She had done a lot of practicing leading up to the audition, so she kept reminding herself, “I can play this. I know this stuff. Just show them.”

And the hard work paid off as she received word, via email on April 14, telling her “congratulations for making it into the Marching Ravens.”

Once the season begins, Smith said they will be performing at all of the home games plus at various events around Baltimore that are held the week before home games. Over the summer, there are a number of parades that the band performs at as well.

Smith said her family has definitely been an influence getting her started in the band and wanted to thank all those who have supported her along the way including her mom for supporting her through violin, piano and now flute. Also to her whole family for coming to the football games, watching and cheering the team but also the band, and also the other members of the band who she said are the ones who kept her wanting more.

And while her family has been that influence along the way, Smith said that what kept her in it is “the music itself and the people. Marching band has been a life-changing experience.”

Through her time in the band, she said she has met some amazing people, some of her best friends. 

When asked if making music a career has been her dream, Smith said she realizes that music is a hard field to get into, and she now has the wonderful opportunity with the professional NFL team “to continue to do something I’ve loved for years now and positively impact others who get to see me, and I think that’s probably what my dream has been,” she said.

While just last season she was watching the Ravens play, listening to the sounds of the Marching Ravens as they performed and observing their precision on the field, this season, she herself will step out on the field at the M&T Bank Stadium, with flute in hand, and be a part of that Ravens family. 

“There’s something amazing about being in a marching band,” Smith said, “because not only are you making the music, but also making the art on the field and it’s just amazing being something so much bigger than yourself.”