By Ashley M. Casey
They didn’t get to stay for the game, but two Syracuse University students from Mexico, N.Y., played in the school’s marching band at Super Bowl XLVIII.
Anthony Veiga, a junior music education major, and Shaun Kinney, a sophomore music industry major, are alumni of Mexico High School. They boarded a bus at 4 a.m. Feb. 2, arriving in New Jersey five hours later to rehearse with the Rutgers University marching band.
“The NFL was looking for a band to represent what they considered the New York Super Bowl,” said Veiga, who plays the baritone.
But New Jersey governor Chris Christie pointed out that MetLife Stadium, while it is the home of the New York Giants, is located in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We had to ask Rutgers to join us,” Veiga said.
In 2013, SU’s marching band, led by Justin Mertz, played in Montreal for a Buffalo Bills game and Houston, Texas, for the Pinstripe Bowl. The band also plays for SU football’s home games and may travel to away games in the future.
“We went to the Heisman Gala, which is the dinner for the Heisman Trophy,” Veiga said.
Despite the miles the band has racked up, they had never been to the Super Bowl before.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Veiga said.
The band members had to keep the news of the performance under wraps.
“When we were first told, we went nuts,” Veiga said. “We had to keep it a secret until the NFL let it go public.”
Kinney, a tuba player, said the band members complained somewhat about the rehearsal schedule, but “everybody thought the rehearsals were worth it when we got there.”
“It was amazing. It was just cool to be part of the production,” Kinney said.
The band spotted a few celebrities while waiting to run onto the field for the pre-game performance.
“Kevin Bacon walked by,” Kinney said. “Being around all these people you see on TV that are famous … (was) pretty crazy.”
“We got to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and they mingled with the band,” Veiga said. There was no sight of halftime headliner Bruno Mars, however.
Kinney said he remembered little of the performance because it was so brief.
“Being right about to run on the field — that’s where it really hit me that we were at the Super Bowl,” he said. “It went like a flash.”
“It was about just doing the show, and less focusing on the environment,” Veiga said. “I never thought I’d be able to do that.”
Veiga said performing with Rutgers was a unique part of the Super Bowl experience as well.
“We got to meet a different band. You double in size — it’s really loud and really cool,” he said.
Unfortunately, the musicians did not get to see the game. They loaded their equipment to head back to Syracuse during performance by opera singer Renee Fleming (grad of SUNY Postman’s Crane School of Music) of the national anthem.
Fireworks went off and helicopters buzzed overhead.
“Some of the (seniors) were actually crying … because it was their last marching band event,” Kinney said. “What a way to go out!”
Veiga said he didn’t think SU would get to play the Super Bowl again, but he joked with the band director, “What are you going to do next year to match this?”