Band member pops big question at game
The Pride of Mid-America marching band hit an especially high note during its halftime show on Saturday — a marriage proposal on the 50-yard line.
Jacob Sleek, a senior music education major and Shelby Fortlander, a senior exercise science major, have been together for nearly five and a half years. They met in second grade and started dating their sophomore year of high school.
Sleek’s mom was Fortlander’s peewee cheerleading coach, and Fortlander’s dad was their band director in middle and high school. At Ball State, Sleek is on the drumline and Fortlander is in the color guard.
Sleek got the idea for the proposal two weeks ago and bought a ring Labor Day weekend. In order to pull off the big proposal, he met with associate director of bands Caroline Hand to discuss his options.
“From the time I talked to Dr. Hand on Monday and especially after I got the approval on Tuesday, I [was] kinda freaking out, like all day every day,” Sleek said. “I had to try to keep it in and not give it away to her.”
After the proposal, the band played the song “She Loves You” by the Beatles while standing in a heart formation.
Many media members and even some band members pulled out their cameras or phones to help the couple capture the moment.
“I didn’t notice the entire drumline with their phones out, I didn’t notice the photographers in front of us, it was very me and him,” Fortlander said. “He was the only person I saw there.”
Sleek, who Fortlander said is not a morning person, was energized and woke up at 7 a.m. Saturday. Fortlander had no idea that anything would happen until her best friend, who is also in the color guard, put her flag down and led her to the 50-yard line.
“I saw him and he had a black box in his hand and I was like, ‘No, you’re not doing this,’ and then he did,” Fortlander said.
“After halftime, I felt so relieved and it was funny because now she was freaking out, and I was like, ‘Yeah, now you get to feel it because I’ve freaking out for the past week,’” Sleek added.
Sleek called both of their families, who came along with some of their friends. Because it was Family Weekend at Ball State, Fortlander didn’t suspect a thing.
Fortlander’s younger sister, Mikayla, who is also a band member, found out about the proposal from her mom on Saturday. She was on the field, in formation, while the proposal happened.
When band members figured out what was happening, they began to take a knee along with Sleek.
“Everyone’s yelling at me to kneel down and I was like, ‘No, I’m not kneeling down, it’s my sister,’” Mikayla said. “After it all happened and they were all pulled aside, I was so focused on them. She’s been waiting for this for the past couple years, and I was so excited for her.”
Mikalya said Shelby is not only her sister, but also her best friend, so naturally she cried during the proposal.
“Growing up, we talked about our ideal weddings and stuff like that … it finally happened,” Mikayla said. “I knew our dad was looking down on us, and he’s proud.”
Shelby has been around music all of her life because of her dad, who passed away this summer. She even found herself being more attracted to band guys in high school because she said they understood the schedule demands of band.
“What her dad did, that’s what I’m going to do,” Sleek said. “Finding somebody who knows what it’s going to be like to be a band director’s wife is kind of important, because it’s different and it’s a lot. We’ve done music all our life … it’s pretty important. To tie that all in with that was really cool.”