Thunder of the East to take UB Stadium by storm
Published: Friday, October 6, 2006
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
The thunder coming from the direction of UB Stadium this weekend will have absolutely nothing to do with the weather.
At a special homecoming performance this Saturday at 1 p.m. UB's marching band, the Thunder of the East, will unite with alumni band members from the past 65 years. Area high school bands will also join them.
It will be the group's largest event of the semester, with a grand total of 700 players on the field. Over 1,000 volunteers have been involved to ensure the event runs smoothly.
In general, the band's history hasn't been as organized.
James Mauck, who was appointed director of athletic bands in 2002, is credited for the band's recent improvements of increased membership and musicianship, but the UB marching band wasn't always so successful. In 1920, there were a mere 15 members who performed at small concerts and football games.
In 1946, director Gerald Marx organized a new UB Band, bringing together about 50 musicians under the name ROTC Marching Band. In 1961, under the direction of Frank J. Cipolla, the band became known as the "Pride of the East," transforming their identity on campus with a university Alma Mater song and new uniforms.
The UB Band was the first group to move its headquarters to the Amherst Campus in 1968, and a year later they marched at President Nixon's Inaugural Parade. During the 1970s, membership soared from 50 to 300 members.
The group was forced to disband in 1981 due to a lack of funding, and struggled to reestablish their identity on campus until 1996. That year, the Kappa Eta Chapter of the Band Service Fraternity was established on campus.
When the UB football team was once again ranked as Division I-A in 1999, the university marching band was resurrected, and took on its current name, the "Thunder of the East." They had their first performance in years at the football game on Sept. 11, 1999.
At Saturday's performance, UB's band will be proudly wearing their new uniforms, designed by Mauck himself.
UB alumnus John Hathaway, who played with "Thunder of the East" from 1963 to 1968, is returning Saturday as the director of Mount St. Mary's Academy's marching band. As a student he was a percussionist and the band librarian.
"The quality and playing ability has improved tremendously," Hathaway said. "I see a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of very dedicated staff working with the band now, and it's all very promising."
Brook Nuoffer, a senior history and Spanish major who has been with the UB Marching Band for the past four years, said the band is currently better than it has been in a long time.
"The dedication is better, the music is better, the caliber of marching is better, the technique has improved," Nuoffer said. "We're a lot stronger as a group."
Brandon Bryant, a junior Spanish major, has been with the band for three years and is currently the head drum major. He said that the band has become so renowned that they are contacted by other schools.
"Northern Illinois University's marching band just contacted me, and they wanted a copy of our fight song to play at their football games," Bryant said. "I thought that was going to be the only case, but a couple days ago I got a phone call from Boston College, who will be playing our fight song in mid-November, so I think this might be a new trend starting."
Mauck attributes the dynamic growth and energy of the band to a variety of factors, and believes it is important to keep the material fresh and the students motivated, never giving them a chance to sit back.
"I get really emotional when it comes to the music," Bryant said. "One time, when the band played the Alma Matter, I actually had them play it kind of slowly. After they got done, I teared up, that's how amazing they were."
Many of the marching band members are also active in Kappa Kappa Psi, a nationally recognized honorary band service fraternity that actively aids UB's band program and was featured in the movie Drum Line.
The marching band can be seen at football games, and have other performance opportunities, such as parades and at an exhibition for a high school band competition this season.
"We're trying to refine exactly what our show is this year," Bryant said. "We're making sure we're focused on the music and everything else will fall into place."
Despite their increasing popularity, the members don't just march to entertain.
"It's the quickest way to make friends, you all of a sudden have 50 or 60," Nuoffer said. "With the band, you're always with a group of people who love music as much as you."
The members are proud to call themselves band geeks.
"I consider myself to be a band geek, but I'm like ultra chic band geek," Bryant said. "I don't fit the mold, if you will, and I don't think a lot of band people do either."
For a complete list of the performances of the "Thunder of the East" and how to join, visit www.thunderoftheeast.org