Hitting the right notes

Entering the student cheering section of a GW basketball game, fans are greeted by the blue shirts and shining brass of the pep band. Faces painted or instruments moving with the music, the 60-member squad exudes an enthusiasm that explodes as the first strains of the GW Fight Song resound through the Smith Center. Before long, band members and fans alike are moving to the beat.

Encompassing Colonial colors as well as spirit, the band takes pride in whipping the crowd into a frenzy at men’s and women’s home basketball games, as well as at other various campus and community events. Around campus, the GW pep band likes to give students something to shout about.

Director of Bands Ben Fritz described the ensemble as a power band setup, designed to maximize sound using brass, saxophones, and drums. The group’s instrumentation was formulated especially for performance at basketball games, he said.

Band members said they enhance the experience for fans in the stands.

I think we add the fun, said Band Director Stephanie Bowers. People can clap along, sing, dance.

A junior in her third year with the band, Bowers plays the alto saxophone. She explained camaraderie within the band is part of what makes it fun for the members. All students involved in the pep band are also a part of the symphonic band or wind ensemble, which convene during different semesters.

We form a community and everyone gets along well. We spend a lot of time together, she said, mentioning that pep band is her favorite ensemble. It’s more relaxed, wild and crazy, she said.

Some members listed other reasons for their involvement. Junior Chris Wilson said while you don’t have to be a basketball fan to be in the pep band, it certainly helps.

I definitely feel that the band adds to the atmosphere at games, he said. Some of the biggest basketball fans are in the band.

Guaranteed seats at games and tournaments are also perks of the band for sophomore Mark SooHoo, who plays the mellophone, an instrument similar to a trumpet.

I’m a huge basketball fan, he said. SooHoo explained that not if, but when, the teams make it to the Atlantic 10 or NCAA tournaments, the band will be there alongside them for support.

I think there’s a school spirit that the band captures, these kids are here because they want to be, Fritz said.

He also mentioned growth and tradition as other colorful parts of the band’s personality.

The growth that the band has experienced in the last 10 years is a microcosm for GW’s growth as a whole, said Fritz, who has led the band for a decade.

One time-honored tradition the band has developed is gathering in Kogan Plaza to sing the alma mater before every home game.

I love these kids, they all work hard, Fritz said.

Freshman Lacey Richards, who plays the trombone and baritone in the pep band and symphonic band, said she found the activity a good way to keep doing something she liked while experiencing new things.

It’s a way to meet people, Richards said. And it’s a way to continue playing music, which I’ve done since I can remember.

Upcoming events for the bands include the symphonic band/wind ensemble concert Feb. 10. The music, to be performed in Lisner Auditorium, was composed and arranged specially for the University group, according to Fritz.

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