Pep band supplements sports with music, spirit

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Pep band supplements sports with music, spirit

The setlist includes hits such as 2014's

The setlist includes hits such as 2014's "Shake It Off" and "Uptown Funk."

Photo by Zach Bukowski

The setlist includes hits such as 2014's "Shake It Off" and "Uptown Funk."

Photo by Zach Bukowski

Photo by Zach Bukowski

The setlist includes hits such as 2014's "Shake It Off" and "Uptown Funk."

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With National Marquette Day right around the corner, there’s a lot of focus on school spirit — and that is exactly what Marquette University Pep Band does best.  

The pep band is made up of a group of students who play a variety of band instruments at events, typically athletic games, with the goal of promoting school spirit and bringing more enthusiasm to the crowd.

Alexi Chavez, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and president of the Marquette Band Program, said that aside from the set schedules and heavy time commitment, a “typical” day varies for every single student in pep band.

Chavez said members of the pep band go to their classes during the day and are expected to be at the Varsity Theatre an hour and a half before game time to make sure that they are prepared for the night. They start playing music 45 minutes before tip-off. She said the pep band performs at every game, but not all are required to attend every time.  

“Each student has their own schedule and major, which is entirely unique for our band program,” Chavez said in an email. “We balance our studies with our passion for music, especially when we play for and travel with the basketball teams.”

Because there is no music major at Marquette, Chavez said all members of the pep band, and the entire band program itself, are truly in the program because they want to be.  However, Marquette does offer a music minor.

Erik Janners, director of music at Marquette, said there is a lot more to pep band than just performing at games.

“After the game there is packing up, returning to campus and unloading the bus and putting all the instruments away,” Janners said in an email. “So, for a 7 p.m. game, pep band students can count on a time commitment from 5-10 p.m. and sometimes later if it’s a long game or overtime.”

Janners said band students usually stay with the pep band for all four years of school, so he gets to know them really well.

To be in pep band, students enroll in either Symphonic Band or Wind Ensemble, which are classes that meet three times a week. Students are required to go to a minimum of five games.

“It’s much different than a traditional classroom setting,” Janners said in an email. “My favorite part about working with pep band is having fun and getting to know the band students outside of an academic setting.”

One thing that sets pep band apart from regular classes is travel.

“For men’s basketball we are bussed right inside the Fiserv Forum with its massive loading bays, so students don’t even bring their coats – they unload the bus inside the arena,” Janners said in an email.

He said that although the pep band doesn’t travel to every away game, they get to travel for men’s and women’s BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments at the end of the season.

Chavez said the traveling schedule varies. “We usually leave campus 1-2 days before the tournament begins, so that there is enough time for travel arrangements,” Chavez said in an email.

Since most of their traveling occurs around spring break, she said some of the pep band members have to take their midterms on a plane or a bus with one of the band directors proctoring.

Sophia Hess, a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences, is also a member of the band. Although it is her first year with the band, Hess has played the French horn since sixth grade and has played the mellophone for her school’s pep band and marching band since high school.

She said pep band means having lots of responsibilities while also having lots of fun.

“It’s like you’re always on the job. … We have to be ready to play in a few seconds notice because sometimes (our conductors) will call out pieces and we have to play right then and there,” Hess said. “You’re responsible for bringing a lot of energy and spirit … you also have to be a good team player because the band represents Marquette as a whole.”

Hess said her favorite part about pep band is all the energy and inclusivity the band members bring to each event.

“In addition to having about 120 songs, we have a lot of cheers and gimmicks that are a lot of fun,” Hess said. “There’s never a dull moment.”

Some of their songs include “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson.

Chavez said the team will be traveling this year.

Janners said that it all depends on how the basketball team does this year.  He said right now it seems like the men’s basketball team will be traveling to New York and the women’s team may be going to Chicago, which is where the teams typically play for BIG EAST tournaments.

“We can’t wait to continue to hype up the players and the crowd. It will truly be an amazing time,” Chavez said in an email.

Janners, Hess and Chavez said they agreed that being a part of pep band is a valuable experience and encourage students to join.

“When we are playing music and we see the crowd and the players get more hyped for the game, it’s the best feeling anyone could ever have while playing music, especially when you’re surrounded by friends who feel the same way,” Chavez said in an email.

This story was written by Skyler Chun. She can be reached at skyler.chun@marquette.edu