Thunder of the East Marching Band plays for more than school spirit
UB football is not the only team putting on a performance during game day.
As junior quarterback Tyree Jackson throws a perfect pass to junior wide receiver K.J. Osborn down the sideline for a touchdown, a group of over 100 students dressed in matching overalls pull their instruments up to their lips.
A center snare drum cues in the Thunder of the East marching band with four taps.
The band explodes in sound with UB’s fight song, “Victory,” which it plays after every time the Bulls score.
“Go! Bulls Go! Bulls Go! Bulls Go! Go UB!” the whole stadium chants in unison.
The marching band has been electrifying crowds and continuing the pageantry traditions of college football since 1999. The band features more than an instrumental section, including the visual aspects of color guard, featured twirlers and the UB Dazzlers Dance Team.
“I know we have True Blue for spirit but we help with that other half of spirit,” said Jahmil Roman, a senior mechanical engineer and commanding officer in the band.
“When everyone sees the band, they all get pumped up. We start playing the fight song and everyone is ready for the game to start or to cheer on the Bulls. I feel like we bring people together and add to the hype of the game.”
Watching a marching band is an experience unique to college football. The Thunder of the East burst out in song after a big play with traditional tunes like “Victory” and a cowbell solo. They even play unconventional songs like “Piano Man” by Billy Joel or “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars.
“Our halftime show is all about the pageantry and having fun,” said marching band director James Mauck. “We're playing tunes that everybody knows and it's about the energy, building the hype. Then we have the traditions we have to carry on. A big part of college football is tradition. As the years have gone on, I think we have really solidified quite a lot of them.”
The Thunder of the East is on full display during its halftime show. It is an opportunity for the band to show off different marching formations and designs that flow as the music progresses.
The show features every member of the band, twirlers, color guard and dance team. At UB’s last home game against Eastern Michigan, Niagara Falls High School joined the band to play “We Are the World.”
Mauck said he sees a direct correlation between the band and the football team. Each team has a set of goals it is trying to reach. It is about being efficient, motivated and clear about what the team wants to accomplish every week, according to Mauck.
The band sometimes practices for up to 20 hours each week, with practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Senior political science major and a drum major in the band, Brian Howe, said all the hours he has put in since his freshman year have been worth it.
“If it were not for this band, I wouldn't have the friendships that I've had for so many years,” Howe said. “There's no way to explain it.”
The Thunder of the East does not require marching experience for any of its members, just a willingness to play. But many have been marching since high school and wanted to continue in college.
As a drum major, Howe is at the highest student position in the band. His work over the years has allowed him to audition and earn the role of directing the band in his final season.
Howe said he tells the other drum major, junior accounting major Craig Adriaansen, that you do not understand the “gravity of the situation” until you are leaving.
From the “meat and potatoes” lower brass section to the routines performed by the Dazzlers, each student aims to provide the best possible game day experience for fans and support the team in front of them.