The Colgate Scene
January 2007

Colgate's pep band makes some noise before a football game at Andy Kerr Stadium. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Pep band brings spirit to sports

There are many reasons to love collegiate sports: the purity of the contest, the intense competition, the pride of the student-athletes, and the supporting groups who help create an atmosphere of energy and excitement. At Colgate, a growing group of dedicated musicians is exhibiting their passion for the school, the music, and Raider athletics.

The Raider Pep Band, a student-run group, features a wide range of instruments -- "anything that doesn't have strings," as student director Michael Bernstein '07 said. Most of the 37 members have marching band experience from high school, but anybody who has an interest in learning to play music and working hard is welcome.

The members determine their appearance schedule, in consultation with the athletics department. Although they are best known for playing at football and men's hockey games, the pep band also performs at basketball and lacrosse matches, as well as for any team that makes postseason play.

The pep band has seen a number of improvements in recent years under the leadership of students such as Bernstein. Last year the school moved the band's budget to the administrative services department, giving them greater spending flexibility. With assistance from a new adviser, they developed a strategic plan and purchased jackets, hats, and hockey jerseys, which helped to increase their visibility.

And in the past few years, interest in membership has grown; the band has increased in size by about 25 percent, and they hope to continue that trend.

"Back in the 1950s and '60s, the [marching] band was a group of probably 50 or 60 people," Bernstein said. "We're trying to work our way back to that size, and if we can do that we're going to have a really great sound."

One alumnus from that era who played tuba in the marching band is Hamilton resident Art Steneri '56. A fan of the pep band, he recently showed his support by donating two brass instruments he had inherited, an upright alto horn and a cornet.

Almost any kind of music is a possibility for their repertoire, according to Bernstein.

"We try to play a lot of things that alumni are used to hearing, like the fight song and alma mater, of course," Bernstein said. "Ideally we play a little bit of traditional music, and contemporary music definitely isn't out of the question. For example, last year we did an Offspring song."

The ensemble's ambitious schedule, which includes traveling to away games, requires a serious time commitment by its members. Depending on the number of sports they are supporting at one time, in addition to two mid-week rehearsals, most of the weekend can be taken up. "For example, a busy weekend would be Silver Puck weekend," said Bernstein, "when we will have four hours of practice during the week, a football game on Saturday, and hockey games on both Friday and Saturday nights."

Although typically pep bands exist to help excite the fans and athletes, the band members say they prefer the opposite to occur.

"Obviously we try to get everyone pumped up," Bernstein said. "But I think we really enjoy it when the crowd gets into it and kind of takes center stage. I always feel like if the band is the most creative group of people in the stands, then we have a problem."

For sophomore band member Meeann Dingman, a sax player, the best part of being in the band, besides the musicians she plays with, "definitely would be the students and fans. Games are more enjoyable when the crowd joins in with some cheers or chants, because then you know that you are adding to the atmosphere of the game. The fans play a large role in encouraging the band."

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