The action on the Anderson Center court may have paused, but high in the stands the new University of Mary Washington Pep Band is charged with keeping up the excitement. The instrumental group, complete with cowbell, bursts into song, and UMW mascot Sammy D. Eagle dances with the halftime crowd. A trumpet solo gives way to a fist pump from the band and a rousing chant – “Eagles!”
“A pep band has been absent from sports [at UMW] for all these years and now it’s a reality,” said faculty band leader Jim Ford.
The pep band, the brainchild of Ford and faculty adviser Kevin Bartram, director of the UMW Philharmonic Orchestra, recently became an officially recognized student group with about 20 student musicians. Although it has only been operating for about a month, the group has stayed busy, attending every home basketball game so far this year.
No matter the score on the board, members of the pep band are there to show their support – cheering on their fellow students and chanting “Go Eagles” along with the cheerleaders.
“The pep band is the projector of spirit for the sports program,” Ford said, explaining that the group makes a real difference in the atmosphere and overall feeling at UMW basketball games.
For freshman trombone player Maureen Iredell, playing in the pep band is a chance to feel connected to UMW.
“It’s fun to contribute to the school community and spirit,” she said.
The group has received enormous support – from players, fans, even the custodial staff at the Anderson Center.
“We get a lot of positive comments, especially when people see us for the first time,” Ford said.
The pep band is making its mark outside the Anderson Center as a new way to recruit students and draw attention to the university. Ford recently hosted the group’s first outreach event, where local students from Spotsylvania High School performed with them at a basketball game. It’s a new way to give community high school students a chance to ask questions about UMW, experience student life and learn what it’s like to be an Eagle.
“The high school and college band together make a dynamite sound,” said Steve Peppers, faculty sponsor of the Spotsylvania Pep Band. “It really explodes.”
One of the high school’s band students was recently accepted to Mary Washington, “and he’s excited about being able to come,” Peppers said.
Whether they’re pumping up Eagles athletes, energizing fans or exposing high-schoolers to the charm of the university, members of the UMW Pep Band are bringing a new expression of spirit to campus.
As the game comes to a close, the pep band stands up and cheers for a UMW victory. They’re already looking forward to more wins this month and to new opportunities to play, when they promise to bring even more enthusiasm to Mary Washington.
– Julia Davis ’15
– Photos by Kimmie Barkley ’14