Campus adds pep band for athletic events

Athletic events and the music program both have an added dimension this year - pep band.

Athletic events and the music program both have an added dimension this year - pep band.

The student band is a cooperative effort between the music program and the athletics department. The band has been playing at select Panthers basketball games this season and giving students a chance to pursue an activity they enjoy.

The last chance to see the pep band perform for this season will be at the men's and women's home basketball games Saturday. The women's game starts at 2 p.m., and the men's game begins at 4 p.m. in the KOA Arena.

The impetus behind the new group was Bret Butler, athletic director, who approached Dr. Josh Groffman, assistant professor of music, to ask him about starting a pep band as a way to add to the atmosphere at athletic events.

“I may not be musically inclined, but I do appreciate those who are,” Butler said. “Competing with music, the crowd, and everything going on isn't just an experience for the athletes, but an experience for all who attend.”

That was about a year ago, when Groffman recruited a group of students and premiered the band at a home basketball game last year.

During the summer, Butler and Groffman met with Dr. Brad Townsend, director of bands for the University of Pittsburgh, when his band was in residence during its annual band camp on the Bradford campus.

Townsend offered used instruments (an especially appreciated addition since large brass instruments like Sousaphones can cost thousands of dollars) and music for the Pitt pep band's repertoire of Pitt fight songs and “Sweet Caroline,” Neil Diamond's 1969 hit that has become a standard at Pitt events.

When Kathy Thumpston retired as director of the Marching Owls at Bradford Area High School, Groffman and Jeff Guterman, chair of the Division of Communication and the Arts at Pitt-Bradford, saw an opportunity to provide the pep band with a dedicated director.

While Groffman leads the vocal ensemble and the music program at Pitt-Bradford, Thumpston is dedicated solely to the pep band. She arranged for the high school to donate some unused instruments as well.

This academic year the pep band played Midnight Madness to kick off the basketball season and during several of the weekend basketball games.

The Pitt-Bradford's Admissions office was happy when the pep band formed since many prospective students had asked about band opportunities on campus.

“There is a huge marching band and pep band tradition in the area, and we wanted to give the students a chance to continue their experience of playing music,” Groffman said. “And I think more music is always better.”

Groffman and Thumpston also support having students in the band who have not played an instrument before and will find a place for them.

The pep band itself is student-run, for the most part, Thumpston said, allowing students to expand their leadership ability by working together and assist in organizing their activities.

Next year, the band could branch out from basketball into other sports.

Butler said, “We would love to have the Pep band anywhere we can if the coach wants it.” Except maybe the golf course, but you never know.

“I think we are on the right track, and Kathy Thumpston and Dr. Groffman are doing a great job organizing this program.”

Thumpston taught instrumental music and directed the marching band at BAHS, where she also played saxophone in the band when she was a student. She ultimately served as drum major of the band before attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study music.