By Kristie Schiefer
News Assignment Editor
The game operations team within the St. Bonaventure University Athletics Department collectively agreed to cut the pep band from Bonnies Basketball games, and not everyone’s happy about it.
With NCAA Division I school pep bands rarely featuring less than 25 members, the St. Bonaventure pep band lacked in numbers and was unable to represent a strong collegiate pep band, according to Aaron Hill, director of sales and marketing.
“We have been holding constant at 17 members this year, and we were told that it makes the school ‘look bad’ to have a small band,” Allie Leis, co-president of the pep band, said in an email. “Yes, we do look bad next to schools with up to five times our student body with a full-fledged music school but we barely have a music program. The concert band usually runs around 20 people, including community members. Our pep band is entirely volunteer while other schools in the Atlantic 10 conference offer it for academic credit or the members receive a scholarship or stipend.”
It became very difficult for the band to project its sound throughout the entire arena, according to Hill. However, the pep band didn’t find a challenge in performing in the Reilly Center.
“We didn’t find it hard to play in the RC, and it says something for the crowd if they are loud enough to drown us out at the other end of the court,” Leis, a senior mathematics and bioinformatics major, said. “I do think we should be allowed to play despite having fewer than 20 members, not only because of the time we put in, but because we will be the only school in the division without a pep band.”
Hill said he is currently unaware of any other universities without a pep band. At the end of last season, the band met with representatives of the university to express support and encourage an increase in membership.
“We wanted to provide the band with an opportunity to rectify the situation of low membership,” Hill said. “They have performed at Bonnies basketball games for many years and deserved an opportunity to recruit members for this season.”
The pep band, along with Hill, hopes a comeback to the Reilly is in store – if not by the end of the season, then next year.
“We are definitely not going to let the pep band die,” Treasurer Arin Liska, a sophomore political science major, said. “As President of the pep band for next year, I’m going to work with (sophomore English major) Erin Dempsey, who will be Vice President, to get the numbers that they are looking for in hopes to bring the band back.”
Leis said she is confident the pep band will return to the Reilly Center and is not giving up just yet.
“We are working on recruiting new people, but this will most likely fall to the officers below us, and we’ve found everyone we could for this year,” she said. “They told us we could play at one more men’s game as a senior send-off and at one or two women’s games so we can keep in playing shape, which we are still working out.”
However, disappointment looms over current members of the pep band who looked forward to playing for their Bonnies.
“I am heartbroken that they do not want a volunteer band to play at their games,” senior member and elementary and special education major Molly Bly said. “We did our best for every game, and were happy to be playing in support of the players. Without pep band, I have no incentive to attend games. Dismissing us after we’ve presented ourselves and gave our time to support the team, I find that to be more disappointing than if they had just refused our participation in the first place.”
As volunteers, the pep band spent much of their free time practicing for performances, which they can’t do much with now.
“It’s disappointing that we put in all this time and can’t really do very much,” Leis said. “Everyone in the band is incredibly enthusiastic about what we do to support the Bonnies, but if we keep having these problems, there is only so much of this people can take before it’s too much to make it worth it.”
The pep band was a source of crowd entertainment, but also served as an output of expression for the musicians.
“I’m upset because the pep band was another way musicians were able to express themselves and also help the audience enjoy the music and get pumped up,” freshman Jessica Zummo, an education major, said.
Despite a lack of members, the quality of performance was also noted, reassuring the dedication these Bonnies put into their performance.
“I know when the band had played we had received many compliments about how the band has improved since last year,” Liszka said.
“We have heard nothing but good things from the crowd and other faculty and staff members,” she said.
According to Hill, it’s difficult to say how the dismissal of the pep band will affect others, but he hopes the Reilly Center will continue to be held to high standards as an entertainment venue.
“The Athletics Department hopes the decision will have minimal effect on the game atmosphere in the Reilly Center,” Hill said. “We will continue to provide music for our students, fans and the team through our in-house disc jockey.”