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)

Summer Plans Series: Rocky’s Road Trip

By Rachel Goldstein ’13
University Communications 

Rocky traveled over 10,000 miles this past summer alongside Michael Myers ’16, a trumpet player with the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps. Based in Canton, Ohio, the Bluecoats consist of 150 members between the ages of 15 and 22. Their most current show, “To Look for America,” brought Rocky and Myers to more than 30 cities across the country to compete in Drum Corps International competitions and to perform for audiences totaling nearly 300,000. A drum and bugle corps consists of a color guard, percussion instruments, and a brass section. They play a variety of pieces meshed together and move into various formations. Each group has a set routine that is performed in front of judges. The Bluecoats placed 5th in this year’s Drum Corps International competition.

Founded in 1972 as the Canton Police Boys Club, the Bluecoats are now coed and recruits musicians from across the globe. Although many members are majoring in music, others like Myers have different plans. Myers studies mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester, while playing in the University’s pep band on the side. However, it was back in high school when Myers was first introduced to large-scale drum and bugle corps competitions and it was not until last fall that he decided to apply for a corps membership, beginning the extensive, year-long audition process that landed Myers in the 2013 drum and bugle corps.

The Bluecoats began their summer tour in Denison, Ohio where they spent one month rehearsing 12 to 14 hours a day to learn the show. Following this, musicians, staff, and volunteers traveled across the United States in a convoy consisting of three tour buses, a 53-foot equipment trailer, a 48-foot cafeteria trailer, and additional support vehicles. The procession carried Rocky to many well-known venues including Alamodome in San Antonio, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

“If you do this you love performing,” says Myers, who performed at least 30 times over a course of 60 days. “It’s a lot of physical work, a lot of cardio,” Myers admits, “and the show leaves you exhausted.” However, the hardest part, according to Myers, is the mental aspect of being part of a large performance group. “You can’t switch off–if you turn off you’re going to miss something and you can’t miss something,” Myers explains. “You get lunch and dinner for a mental break.”

A show, which may last from 10 to 15 minutes, involves a mash up of tunes from a variety of genres. The Bluecoats’ 2013 theme, “To Look for America,” included variations from America by Simon and Garfunkel, Spring from the “River” by Duke Ellington, the Ebony Concerto by Stravinsky, and Bryant’s concerto for wind ensemble, to name a few. The 150 members work for hours to become a cohesive group, capable of playing, performing, and moving as one body. Each person is an integral part of the show. “Everyone is family,” says Myers, “because you have to be able to trust every single person.”

Although the summer tour may have been his last experience in a drum and bugle corps, like most former members, Myers will remain part of that community. “A former Bluecoat is family,” Myers added, “whether they marched with you or not.”


Pep Band: On the Road Again?

By Joseph Bailey ’15
Intern, Univ. Communications

After three years cheering and encouraging the men’s and women’s basketball teams on to victory at home, the UR Pep Band may find itself going on the road once again. This particular group of peppy individuals, under the capable direction of Greg Savich, is made up of freshman through seniors, flute players down to tuba players, and everyone in between. The band can normally be seen rocking the crowds during home basketball games in the Palestra and during home football games in Fauver Stadium. However, once in a while, the Pep Band has the unique privilege of playing for the ‘Jackets at a Division III final four game. And, with the top ranked Yellowjackets dominating their opponents this season, they have high hopes of joining in on the fun of March Madness.

The band has been founded three times in its history. The present director, Greg Savich, founded the current band when he was a sophomore, in the fall 2003. The late, great Frederick Fennell directed the original band, founded in the 1930s. Eastman students will be familiar with Fennell because of his instrumental role in founding the Eastman Wind Ensemble. There was also another, second band, which lasted into the mid-nineties. Today, the Yellowjacket Pep Band wears their distinctive blue and yellow striped Rugby shirts, and favors upbeat music and outlandish antics at games to pep up the fans and team alike.

When the team is winning, and spirits are running high in the Palestra, director Savich tends to go with Pep Band standards, including “The Impression That I Get,” and “Take on Me.” Towards the end of such games, when the team is beginning to settle into its groove, the director often opts for the old favorite “Let’s Groove.” When the team seems to be getting off track, a simple “Let’s Go Band” or even “Long Train Runnin’” can help them to refocus their energies. Finally, whenever John DiBartolomeo scores, and there is a timeout shortly after, the band makes every effort to play “Johnny B. Goode.”

According Hilary Dietz ’13, past pep band co-president, the last time the band traveled for basketball was the spring of her freshman year, in March 2010. That year, the band had the honor of going—all-expenses-paid—to Illinois-Weslyan University in Bloomington, Ill. Dietz says that whenever the band is away for the final four, “Everyone gives 200 percent.” The last trip to Illinois was particularly special for Dietz, because as a native of the state, her parents were able to attend the game. This year, she has high hopes that the men and women’s teams can advance far enough through March Madness to secure a road trip for the band.

Pep BandWhen asked how the band and games are different at the final four when compared to the Palestra, Savich replied, “The band plays very loudly, is very energetic and focused, and cheers a lot.” With regards to the fans, he described it as a weird experience, because the school who is located closest to the tournament play can easily bring the most fans to cheer.

Savich said that he tends to choose pieces that compliment the feel of the game. For example, if the game is close and nearing the end, he will choose music that is fast-paced, or a piece like “Final Countdown.” To motivate band members, Savich looks to the words of Duke Ellington: “You play with the intent to commit something.” Hopefully, that something will lead the men and women to victory as the regular season draws to a close, and the teams head for the playoffs.

Catch the Pep Band in action for the last regular season home basketball games on Sunday, Feb. 17 at noon (men) and 2 p.m. (women).

Pep band members for 2012-2013 include: Clarinets: Christine Ziegler ’16, Kathryn Strelevitz ’16, Joe Bailey ’15, Flutes: Hilary Dietz ’13, Keira Crist ’15, Ryan Challener ’14, Aurora Dopp’13, Aubrie Sauer’16, Saxophones: Taryn Mockus ’13, Ethan Senator ’15, Patrick Callanan ’14, Danika Teverovsky16, Kelsey Tuttle ’16, Amanda Baker ’13, Shyah Miller’16, Kaitlin Pellicano ’13, Trombones: Bennet Niedenburg ’16, Alexander Venuti ’14, Mellophones: Emily Danchik ’13, Nicholas Van Swol ’15, Trumpets: JamesWojakowski’15, Jonathan Strumpf ’15, Brandon Daehn ’13, Jeff Vankerhove ’13, Michael Myers ’16, Crystal Hans ’15, NathanBook’14, Zeke Starling ’16, Tubas: Daniel Macguigan ’14, JuliaMorris’15, Percussion: Marz Saffore ’15, Chelsea Hans ’14, Mike Tamburrino ’16, Director: Gregory Savich ’06.