Leading the March to Victory
Anticipation is heavy in the air as kickoff approaches. The excited crowd is loud, but the sound soon disappears. People have appeared on the field and they command attention. Donning uniforms of black and blue, they assemble into perfectly even positions.
All at once, the crowd is slammed with rhythmic drumming, blaring horns, and synchronized movements - the UB Marching Band's first performance of the afternoon.
UB's Marching Band, the Thunder of the East, is comprised of students of all ages and majors, and is responsible for keeping the crowds both entertained and spirited. According to the band's website, it is comprised of four different sections: woodwind instruments, brass instruments, the drumline, and visual (which includes colorguard, the Dazzlers dance team, and feature twirlers).
Though music unites the band, most of the members' majors are completely unrelated to music. Junior psychology major Kristen Ferrino claims that this a testament to the marching band's diversity.
"We have people from all different majors. I think we only have one music major in the entire band," Ferrino said. "I think everybody just wants to be there to perform music, and everybody's love of music really connects everyone."
Ferrino, a baritone player, attributes her happiness at UB to the connection she feels with all of her band mates. As a commuter, she found it difficult to make true friends until she came across the Thunder of the East. Though she was in her high school's marching band, it is not a requirement for interested students to have any prior experience, or even to audition.
"Pretty much anybody can join [without an audition] unless you want to be in the drum line or a Dazzler...even if you can't play an instrument, we'll teach you," Ferrino said. "Most people can't march when they come in, and we teach them that, too. We're open to everybody."
Depending on the time of year, there are two different types of bands that play at UB's sporting events. In the fall, the full marching band performs choreographed routines at each football game. The typical game day during this season is long for the members of the band. Depending on what time kickoff is, the band will show up a couple hours before. Then there is a parade from Slee Hall to the field, dubbed the "Victory Parade," where the band plays and marches, riling up school spirit within athletes and fans alike.
When the parade is over, the members have little time to get themselves set up in the stadium and eat some food until it's time to perform the pre-game routine. After this, they play for touchdowns, time outs, first downs, and media breaks, and their day is not over until the game ends and they perform the alma mater.
The other band that plays is the Pep Band. Comprised of a smaller group of the same students as Marching Band, Pep Band performs mostly during the spring at the basketball games. Because of the smaller venue, there are no marching routines involved; the music selection is often more modern, however, less march-able songs like "Blister in the Sun" by Violent Femmes.
Junior civil engineering major Josef Mazeco plays alto saxophone in both bands. He acknowledges that the days can be long, but thinks that they have found the perfect balance between professionalism and fun.
"It's definitely a time commitment, but you learn to manage your time around it. It's not too bad...we are very professional, but we're also a little laid back," Mazeco said. "We don't have ball-busting auditions and we don't have to do a 40 hour per week commitment, but when we do practice [and perform] we go out and get our stuff done - we have a job to do but we do it well."
The band's performances are not limited to sporting events. In addition to regular spirit events, the band also performs at the Dome in Syracuse in front of numerous competing marching bands. This is many of the members' favorite event, because it is essentially the culmination of their practices and hard work.
"I feel like for a lot of people it's the epitome of the season," said junior psychology major Bridget Hogan, a member of the colorguard. "There's no rain or wind. You can perform to the absolute max. You've been working really hard and you're performing your best for people who are really going to appreciate it, because they know what you're doing and they understand it."
At games and pep rallies, the Marching Band is a source of energy and enthusiasm for UB fans and athletes. While True Blue's sole purpose is to cheer on the teams, the members of the Marching Band have found that the most fun games for them are the ones where UB is winning and everybody is in good spirits.
Chris McSorley, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, claims that his favorite event is the very first football game of the season for one reason: a large fan-base.
"Everyone goes to the first game and UB always wins their first game...and everybody shows up to the game and has the best time ever. We have fun with it, like this past year [other people] started yelling 'play Poker Face!' and half the band that knew it from last year started playing it," McSorley said. "You kind of have some leeway and you have fun with it because the fans are actually there and enjoying it, too."
Whether gathering to perform for an audience or just practicing on Kuntz Field during band camp, the UB Marching Band has become a spirited family of its own, within the large UB family it performs for week after week.