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Alumnus keeps marching

Jeff Zumsteg

Jeff Zumsteg and the Tiger mascot march in the 1983 Holiday Bowl Parade in San Diego. Zumsteg hasn’t missed a Mizzou Homecoming since 1979. Photo courtesy of Jeff Zumsteg

When Jeff Zumsteg attended his first Mizzou Homecoming game in 1979, he was not a football fan. He was a Smithton High School senior determined to join Marching Mizzou the next year. Because his Smithton, Mo., school had no football team, he had never marched on a field and didn’t know the rules of the game. Concerned about his lack of experience, the French horn player convinced his school’s concert band director to enter the Mizzou Homecoming parade.

The practice paid off for Zumsteg, who landed a spot with the “Big ‘M’ of the Midwest” in 1980. Since then, he’s marched in every Mizzou Homecoming game — returning each fall even though he lived as far away as Chicago and Atlanta.

“Marching Mizzou gave me an immediate family and became a close circle that I felt at home with,” says Zumsteg, BES ’84, MBA ’86. “For one week in the year, I step back in time. You fall back into the same jokes and same routines. You look at each other and remember that road trip to Florida or the bowl game in San Diego. There are all these silly things you suddenly remember about these people.”

Zumsteg played the mellophone for his first four college years, eventually serving as section leader. He switched to the baritone horn during graduate school and then joined the Marching Mizzou Alumni Band.

“I remember my freshman year seeing the alumni band rehearsing on the practice field while we were marching in the Homecoming parade. I realized it’s not just me having fun; this camaraderie has been there for years.”

Although Marching Mizzou has undergone changes, Zumsteg says the pregame show he performs with the alumni band is the same one he performed with Marching Mizzou 30 years ago.

“You might be in a different letter than you used to be, but many of us have been in every letter,” says Zumsteg, now a senior business manager for AT&T in Kansas City, Mo. He moved back three years ago. “Everyone hates to be in the Z’s because they’re the hardest, but we know how to line up so as to not end up there. The younger ones probably don’t know the trick yet.”

Seeing the growth of the campus invokes school pride, but Zumsteg also finds pleasure in noticing the things that haven’t changed. The band yells the same cheers and gives out the same silly awards at its annual banquet. The baritone section even still wears T-shirts emblazoned with SOBs (Society of Baritones) on the front.

“Even though we might not have been in Marching Mizzou at the same time,” Zumsteg says, “once you’re in the alumni band, you’re part of one infinite family.”

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