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Campus Life + Sports

Pep in Their Step

BU Bands provide soundtrack to campus events

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In the video above, watch the BU Marching Band take to the ice during a men’s hockey game to entertain the Terriers’ enthusiastic fans.

It’s a team that practices hours and hours each week. A team that values each of its members for what they bring individually to their “game,” but prizes the ability to work together. No, we’re not talking hockey, basketball, or crew. This team has a bit more pep in its step. We’re talking about the BU Athletic Bands.

Almost a century after its humble beginnings in 1920 as a 30-piece, all-male ROTC band, the BU Athletic Bands have grown in size—to more than 400 students. Comprising the Marching Band, the Pep Band, the Winter Percussion Ensemble, and the Scarlet Band, the Athletic Bands are open to non–music majors who play an instrument. Together, they provide the soundtrack at nearly every BU sports game and event. From such favorites as “Go BU” to rowdy chants like "Eat ‘m Up"their music fills the air above the scarlet-and-white crowds that regularly fill Agganis Arena and Nickerson Field.

What unites the hundreds of musicians is a love for what they do.

“Every member involved in the BU Bands does it out of their passion for music,” says Hale Ozemek (SMG’11), section leader of the front ensemble. “The hours that we put into these programs, in addition to our busy academic schedules, may seem like a chore or something that we have to do, but in reality, going to band rehearsal and performing is kind of like our escape from reality.”

The time commitment demanded of students is considerable. They may spend as many as 20 hours a week rehearsing. But according to Ozemek, band members say it’s worth it. “It’s a good way to hang out with friends, throw off some stress, and do what we do best: play music,” she says.

In addition to all the rehearsal time, the Marching Band performs at least once every weekend in September and October. Factor in all the appearances at local high school competitions, community events, and special on-campus ceremonies like Matriculation, and you get some sense of just how much of a commitment is involved. The Pep Band comes into play during men’s ice hockey season, when it performs at every home game.

“Performing for such large crowds is by far one of the best parts of being in the BU Bands,” says Ozemek. “When they sing along with our songs and cheer together, it always makes the games much more fun.”

BU Athletic Bands have gained attention well beyond campus. Last January, the Pep Band performed at the Frozen Fenway hockey game between BU and archrival BC, a classic that was televised and watched by thousands. The Terriers, skating in their first outdoor game in 50 years, pulled off a 3-2 victory.

And last November, the Winter Percussion Ensemble appeared on Wheel of Fortune’s college week special, playing to an audience of millions—an experience that Ozemek describes as unforgettable.

And being a member of BU Athletic Bands is about more than making music. It’s about being part of a family, says trumpet player Greg Andrews (CAS’12). “I began freshman year with almost 100 new friends before the first day of classes,” he says. “The people that I am closest to and wish to be close to far after college are all people I’ve met while in band.”

Emily Anstey (CAS’14) says that joining created an instant home for her when she arrived at BU in August. “Band has been a great support system,” she says. “If I’m feeling stressed about school or band responsibilities, there are people who I can talk to and who will sit in the library with me until 2 a.m. until my paper is done.”

And for those who wonder how you can have a band without a football team, Athletic Bands director Zachary deVries (CFA’08,’11) says it actually works to the musicians’ advantage. “To be a member of one of our ensembles takes dedication and a love for music,” he says. “Without football, we attract members who are not here simply to support the team, but who really love band and all of the activities that go along with that.”

More information on the BU Bands is available here.

Catch the Marching Band’s next performances this Saturday, October 30: during halftime of the 2 p.m. men’s soccer game against the University of Albany at Nickerson Field, then at the men’s hockey game against UMass Lowell at 7 p.m. at Agganis Arena.

Tom Vellner can be reached at tvellner@bu.edu; follow him on Twitter at @tomgvellner.

1 Comments

One Comment on Pep in Their Step

  • Mark Sullivan on 10.28.2010 at 2:52 pm

    Whatever happened to the old BU fight song?

    Once you couldn’t attend a BU hockey game without the unofficial BU fight song being indelibly imprinted on your mind.

    Indeed old rival Cornell still uses its own twist on the BU cheer. Listen to their version here:

    http://www.supload.com/listen?s=A6UZRB

    Am I right the BU band doesn’t play it anymore? What became of the BU fight song?

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