Ten Years of Pep Band: The Tradition Continues

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

Ten years ago, a bright-eyed young sophomore named Greg Savich and his roommate decided to revive the Pep Band at the University of Rochester. They had no idea their band would grow to more than 35 active members, and continue to play popular, peppy music a decade later.

From Adele to Lady Gaga, the pep band plays popular music of the day and prides itself of a level of musicianship uncommon in Division III athletic bands. Make no mistake, this attention to detail is not a result of talent imported from the nearby Eastman School of Music; in fact, only one band member is currently enrolled there. Indeed, this is the way it has been since the original band was formed under the tutelage of Frederick Fennell.

There have been at least three versions of the band before the current one was founded. Fennell’s band ended as the U.S. became involved in World War II and many band members enlisted, including Fennell himself. Following his return, the band was re-formed with a new director, Ward Woodbury. This second band lasted until the early 1980s, when its director retired. Attempts were made throughout the 1990s to get the band going again, but they lacked the strong leadership which past bands had relied on. Savich arrived on the scene to a University without a band, and sought to change that.

Munjanja 10th photoAnnabelle Taylor ’17, who was a member of her high school’s marching band, currently serves as equipment manager for the band. “I was drawn to the band when I heard ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ in Park Lot, and decided, yes, these guys are for me!”

Her favorite part of Pep Band is playing at basketball games, especially at the 10th anniversary weekend, where alumni were invited back to play with the band.

The anniversary weekend had many members thinking about where the band will be in 2024. Current student director Jon Strumpf ’15 found himself wondering who will prepare the band in future seasons, given this year’s challenge. The band must fundraise to hire a permanent director, repair instruments, and buy new sheet music. According to one freshman, “Jon has big shoes to fill, but he is capable and talented, and will take the band far.”

Woodbury pep bandPep band members, new and old, with guest conductor Greg Savich, can be found cheering on men’s and women’s basketball teams at all the remaining home games. The band’s current membership is: Clarinet: Kathryn Strelevitz ’16, Bobbi Spiegel ’17, Joseph Bailey ’15, Michelle Currenti ’17; Flute: Ryan Challener ’14, Aubrie Sauer ’16, Kiera Crist ’15, Catherine Kong ’17, Aiyana Smith ’17; Tuba: Dan Macguigan ’14, Julia Morris ’15; Saxophone: Annabelle Taylor ’17, Danika Teverovsky ’16, Amanda Baker ’14, Ethan Senator ’15, Ray Tengan ’17, Aurek Ransom ’17, Eric Holmgren ’17; Mellophone: Nicholas Van Swol ’15, Christopher Cook ’17; Trombone: Douglas Bowlby ’17, Alexander Venuti ’14, Bennett Nidenberg ’16; Trumpets: Jon Strumpf ’15, Michael Meyers ’16, Ezekiel Starling ’16, Crystal Hans ’15, Morena Heyden’17; Percussion: Chelsea Hans ’14, Marz Saffore ’15, Mike Tamburrino ’16, Abigail Eaves ’17, Tyler Vasquez-Dorn ’17.

Top Photo: The Pep Band, together for their 10th anniversary weekend.

Middle Photo: The band plays the national anthem at Friday’s women’s basketball game (Photo Credit: Lloyd Munjanja)

Bottom Photo: The band was first founded over 50 years ago, and here’s a picture of the 1962 band to prove it! (Photo Credit: Melissa Mead, Rare Books & Special Collections)