Oct. 27, 2005
By Jeremy Herb
The Santa Clara
Trumpets, saxophones, snare drums and tubas will soon be echoing throughout the Leavey Center.
The Santa Clara Pep Band has been resurrected, debuting Saturday at the women's volleyball game and the Ruff Riders' Bronco Bash.
"I think it's terrific," Athletic Director Dan Coonan said. "It plays right into our hand in terms of what we're trying to do here in creating a really first-class game-day atmosphere."
While their plans are currently tentative, the pep band hopes to play at almost all of the basketball games this year, as well as some of the remaining volleyball matches. They are also trying to work out a plan to accompany the Ruff Riders and basketball teams to the West Coast Conference Championships which will be held this year at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.
The band is comprised of 20 members, mostly freshmen, and is led by sophomores Andrew Willingham and Taylor Thorn. Despite only rehearsing three times thus far, they have approximately 10 songs prepared, and are in the process of acquiring more music to expand their repertoire.
"This pep band is poised and ready for success, they're golden," Ruff Riders co-president Mike Zozos said. "They really brought a smile to my face when I was listening to it because that's something that is definitely lacking at this university."
At their rehearsal last Thursday evening, the band's brass instruments and pounding bass drum could be heard from anywhere inside Leavey. In the wide-open gym, the instruments' sounds resonated into the highest corridors of the arena, creating an atmosphere that the P.A. system used at games couldn't compare with.
"I think it just adds more authenticity to the game," said Willingham. "It will really create a college atmosphere. I felt like with the DJ they had last year, it was more like an NBA game. With the band, it'll psych the athletes up -- it'll get people rocking in the stands."
As freshmen last year, Willingham and Thorn expressed interest to the athletic department that they wanted to create a pep band on campus. While the athletic department also wanted a Santa Clara pep band, they had no immediate plans to implement the idea, which made the two sophomores' timing perfect.
"We've been so busy the last year that a pep band was a long-term project," Coonan said. "I thought it was going to take years to plant the seed."
Last year, the university brought in local high school marching bands to play at Santa Clara's big games. Coonan explained that originally, the athletic department planned to use high school bands again this season, while working slowly with the music department to form a pep band at the university.
Instead, Willingham and Thorn have gathered all the necessary pieces together to make Santa Clara's pep band a reality now, rather than a few years down the line.
To assist the band, athletics plans to give at least $500 for uniforms, according to Coonan. He explained that the band will earn most of their revenue through fund raising.
The motivation behind forming the pep band stems from its founders' experiences at Santa Clara games last year.
"Andrew and I have a great passion for sports," Thorne said. "It's fun being in the student section, but all the big schools have a pep band and that kind of helps the excitement level of the crowd, so we just wanted to bring it back to get people pumped up."
For Bronco athletes, the pep band can help create a greater home-field advantage, as they know the Leavey Center will always be noisy with the band playing.
"The band just definitely gets people energized and more into the game," junior basketball guard Yasemin Kimyacioglu said. "Also, if there aren't enough fans, they can find a way to fill the gap."
One of the pep band's significant goals is to bring back Santa Clara's fight song. The fight song has been dormant in Santa Clara athletics recently, but Willingham and Thorn hope to change that this year.
Zig Wiedemann '70, is assisting them with the task, as well as playing the tuba in the band. He helped to find a copy of the fight song and to get the music rescored.
"The extra effort to obtain the music was worth the trouble," Wiedemann said. "Anything to get the fight song played in Leavey."
As an undergraduate, Wiedemann was a part of Santa Clara's most famous pep band, The Red Hat Band. The band earned their name by wearing red hats while they played at games, a tradition that stretched over several decades, beginning in the 1950s.
Thorn explained that Santa Clara's new pep band is planning to start its own quirky traditions. They already have one in the works -- coordinating with the Ruff Riders to play a pep band version of DMX's "Ruff Ryders Anthem."
"We have the keyboards and trombones playing the intro part and then the drums come in heavy, then the trumpets play the part that he sings," Thorne said. "It sounds pretty cool."
While the idea of hearing the anthem at games thrilled Zozos, an even bigger benefit to having the pep band is that it gives students one more reason to attend Bronco games.
"I think once people go and actually see them, people are going to really understand how much they're going to make a difference," he said. "The future of school spirit on campus looks very, very bright."