Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Sam Loomis ran cross country at SMC

Sam Loomis ran cross country for SMC

Sam Loomis joined the WSU marching band on saxophone

Sam Loomis joined the WSU Cougar Marching Band on saxophone

Concert Choir
Sam is a theatre stage tech as a campus job

Sam Loomis is a theatre stage tech as a campus job

Sam Loomis wails on his saxophone

The aspiring band director wails on his saxophone

Washington State’s percussion section

Washington State's percussion section

‘Man in Motion’ First in Line for SMC Cross-Country Comeback

Published on February 22, 2024 - 1 p.m.

Whether marching as a musician or being the first male committed to Southwestern Michigan College’s cross-country comeback after a quarter century, Sam Loomis has always been a man in motion.

That hasn’t changed since the Roadrunner traded trails for PAC-12 gridirons as one of 40 alto saxophonists in Washington State University’s Cougar Marching Band.

“I got a free trip to (Los Angeles)” when WSU met the Fresno State Bulldogs of the Mountain West Conference on ABC on Dec. 17, 2022, in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium.

“SoFi Stadium is where the Rams play football,” Loomis said. “We got clobbered (29-6) by Fresno State, but it was one of the coolest moments of my life because we don’t usually travel with the team to away games.”

For home games at Martin Stadium, “It’s a long day,” Loomis said. “We get up at 7 a.m., practice for three hours, have lunch, get our uniforms on. Pregame, the drum line starts, marching onto the field. The band runs on from both sidelines, makes the WSU (formation) and plays the fight song.

“I’m getting goosebumps right now thinking of the first time I ran out of that tunnel to the roar of the crowd. The first game was against the University of Idaho, which is right down the road. Halftime shows are sometimes on television. To my knowledge, I’m one of three out-of-state students in the music school.”

Loomis, who joined the men’s music fraternity, said 75 percent of the 250-member marching band comes from non-music majors and more than 30,000 students.

Not only did he fly back to Pullman Aug. 9 for band camp ahead of his senior year, but with the intention of moving from the saxophone section to cymbals in the drum line.

“I play saxophone in the studio every day. I don’t need to do it in marching band,” he said. “I don’t know quite yet where they’re going to put me. I will audition on cymbals and bass, tenor and snare drums. I have some background in percussion, playing in pits in high school. I did an internship with the middle school director at my school to learn more about percussion.

“I’m going to be a band director in less than three years, so I need to know about drum lines. I’m taking a drum class, too. This coming year I’m taking brass. I already took my woodwind class for bassoon, oboe and clarinet and a violin class for strings.”

“My end goal is to come back to the Midwest,” the music education major said. “To start, anything musical, K-12. Licensed to teach band, choir or orchestra, it might not be band at first, but I will teach band in Michigan at some point.”

At band camp, the Cougars usually learn three halftime shows, but that could change with a new director from Purdue.


The capacity to surprise

Another element of Loomis’s personality besides perpetual motion is his capacity to surprise because he’s always up for anything. That hasn’t changed living in Pullman, 12 minutes from Moscow — Idaho, home of the Vandals.

He had never run cross country before he and Vanessa Crisenbery signed with SMC on Feb. 8, 2021, but that’s because at Otsego High School the fall sport conflicted with marching band.

The Gobles resident joined the Bulldogs swim team and became a competitive diver for two years. He was born in Seattle and moved to southwest Michigan in 2007.

Loomis was no stranger to track, in which he participated from fourth grade through high school. He still competes in intramural track and flag football at WSU after unsuccessfully trying out for the Division I intercollegiate track team.

He shrugs off such setbacks. “I couldn’t swim for the life of me, but I fell in love with diving.”

“I made it to regionals for hurdles in ninth and 10th grades,” he said. “Hurdling isn’t easy, and I was one of the few people on my team who stuck it out. Sometimes we had three to five hurdlers. Sometimes I was the only hurdler. I always ran up to three miles a day. Running is something I love to do. I’m the first person in my family to do a college sport. I feel really good about that.”

Loomis sings and acts, too, as evidenced at SMC, appearing in spring musicals “Godspell” and “Working” and in the fall radio theatre original, “Trouble in Paradise,” as Aiden Mitchell, the congressman’s younger brother. He was cast in “Grease” until COVID-19 intervened.

He sang in the chorus of Washington State’s spring musical, “Once Upon a Mattress,” and this spring will try opera. He works as a stage tech as his WSU campus job.

The oldest of three boys, his two younger brothers, Henry and Harrison, also attended SMC.


He records as Emerald Starship

Another aspect of his musicianship is recording as Emerald Starship. He’s been writing songs since “Cinder” in 2017, which he performed at SMC.

Since he co-founded the Adventurers Guild gaming club, he went live at RonnieCon on March 18, 2022, performing a softer set ranging from his original material, like “Truth,” to Glen Campbell, Fleetwood Mac, Jim Croce, John Denver, the Doors and the Eagles.

His first album, 2020’s “Day in the Sun,” was followed by “Overdrive.” He released an EP in September.

“I have about 60 songs out in the world so far,” Loomis said. “There will be more. I love doing covers live, but it’s harder through Apple and Spotify because of rights. I’m in the middle of trying to get a couple of Linda Ronstadt songs.”


His resume is a blur

Three summers ago, SMC friend Chase Ehlert recruited him to direct New Buffalo’s woodwind section at the Bison band camp. In turn, he brought in trumpeter Nick Falace of Mishawaka, also studying to be a band director at Chicago’s VanderCook College of Music as brass director, and Allyson Hatter from Dowagiac as color guard instructor.

The first part of the summer, the man who graduated from SMC before realizing his goal of starting an Audubon Club for bird watchers, landed a position at Kalamazoo Nature Center.

“I was outdoor adventure coordinator, which means I planned camping trips. I reached out to places to see if we could come there on this day, at this time. It was fun, and a good learning experience.”

“I made bagels at WSU for a couple of months. I was a Subway sandwich artist. I was a meat-packaging clerk. I’ve worked at a gas station convenience store, as a groundskeeper and golf course night guard in Allegan, a logging company and a recycling center. I even made snow at a ski resort.

“I delivered the Otsego Community Shoppers Guide in high school. I was a student custodian, cleaning all three residence halls” at SMC, “but that position was eliminated for safety reasons because of COVID,” so he assisted Director of Bands Mark Hollandsworth.

If it feels like he’s working his way through the jobs alphabet, he almost worked for a zoo, too.


His Titanic passion fit well with Dowagiac

“I have studied the Titanic for years. If it wasn’t for music, I would be discovering ships as an underwater archaeologist,” he said.

Though history bound their lives together, there’s no evidence Dowagiac’s five Titanic survivors ever met. Another Dowagiac connection is that the American inquest was led by Republican U.S. Sen. William Alden Smith, who grew up on Commercial Street across from Beckwith Theatre and Dowagiac District Library.

While it’s hard to imagine Loomis leaving music, he almost did. Twice.

“Once in high school and once when I was here, but I couldn’t,” he said. “I always go with my gut when I make decisions, and my gut was telling me I would regret it for the rest of my life if I dropped music.”

Loomis found SMC looking for a community college with a music program, residence halls and a good living environment. “There are only a few schools in Michigan with those options.”

Loomis was awarded the Dale A. and Doris Lyons Memorial Scholarship and a Board of Trustees Scholarship.

“SMC propelled me into WSU,” said Loomis. “I love this place (SMC) and probably always will,” visiting campus three times while home last summer.

“If I went to WSU as a freshman, my head would have exploded. I went through so many mental hurdles being completely and utterly alone where I didn’t know anyone. It was scary at first, but I got through it and it made me stronger.

“I had a lot of fun during football season, don’t get me wrong, but I was homesick until after Christmas. Now that I’ve made a lot of friends in marching band and music, my second year should be a lot easier.”

“There’s not a dull moment in my life,” he added. “I’m not going to live forever, so I want to do as many things as possible. (July 29) I have a vintage baseball game in Douglas.”