Pep band adds spirit to home basketball games

Favorite song: "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire

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In the band room in the basement of Cunningham Hall, student musicians warm up before a recent practice.

Whitley Walton, Reporter

With basketball season in full swing, the Pride of the Irish marching band moves from the football stands to the basketball bleachers.

Directed by Mrs. Kathy McCullough, the band plays at some games for both the men’s and women’s teams, bringing spirit and talent to the Welch Activity Center. 

Even after 23 years as a band director, McCullough said, “I love pep band. The music is up tempo and fun for the kids and, I think, the audience. It brings a lot of spirit to the game.” McCullough played in her college pep band and supervised  the pep band at West Virginia University as a graduate assistant. “We try to give (the marching band students) an experience as close to a college pep band as we can, and that’s how I run it.”

Juniors Chloe Miller and Gabe Tice are the current drum majors and always feel the spirit at pep bands. While they conduct on the football field, Miller and Tice play the flute and alto saxophone on the basketball bleachers. Tice said, “There’s a lot more energy at football games; there’s a larger crowd,” while Miller said, “It’s more hype at basketball games.” 

“I think (pep games) are a lot of fun because being in the gym, it’s really loud, the energy is up and we’re watching basketball,” Miller said.

Mr. Jason Delaney, associate athletic director and men’s head basketball coach, could not agree more. Delaney said, “I think (the pep band) adds a lot of excitement and school spirit to (basketball games). I always enjoy it because not only are they playing, but also how into the game they are.” Delaney recognizes the support and energy the Pride of the Irish brings to the WAC. 

Preparation for pep band starts during the previous spring, at which time McCullough selects songs for the pep book. “I listen to a lot of music, the new stuff that comes out. I look it over and decide what could fit our band,” McCullough said. Students also get input on the songs chosen and can vote out a song to remove from their playlist. 

Preparation for the students is a bit different. “We practice our pep tunes,” Miller said. “We play the same songs as we do in football.” 

Tice added, “We’ll start practicing them a class or two before the show.” The band tends to play between 20 to 30 songs at pep games.

Tice explained how football games allow the band to have more flexibility when it comes to playing music in the stands, but during basketball games, “you have to be right on it or you could cause a foul for the team.”

When asked about their favorite things about pep games, Miller immediately said, “Song Number 23.” Upon further explanation, Song Number 23 was revealed to be “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire. Tice, on the other hand, said he loves the energy. “You’re almost interacting directly with the crowd and it can make it that much more fun to be there,” he said.

Delaney takes a step back to look at the bigger picture: friendship. “The players enjoy seeing their classmates support them.” When Delaney worked at Arsenal Technical High School, he reminisced on how the band would perform at almost every home game. “It was neat to see those kids get into (the game), too, and you started building relationships between everybody because you’re supporting each other.” 

Delaney mentioned how basketball players would go to band concerts and show the same support. “At the end of the day, we’re all one school and one team.”

“Everybody should join band,” McCullough said. “You’re never bored. You’re either in pep band or color guard, or you’re preparing for solo and ensemble, you’re marching or you’re getting ready for Hawaii. It’s something different, exhilarating and exciting.”

“Go Irish,” Miller said, whereas Tice enthusiastically yelled, “Go band!”