Oct. 21, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - As an incoming freshman at Santa Clara last year, Andrew Willingham was looking forward to joining the university's pep band. A musician who also doubled as a sports fanatic, Willingham had intentions of participating in the pep band, envisioning a sea of red and white yelling and clapping with every note he blew out of his trumpet.
He relished at the idea of raising school spirit and wanted to do as much as possible to be a part of the select few who had the responsibility of getting the crowd involved during games.
"I think the band is always one of the craziest bunch of people at games," said Willingham. "I think school spirit in the basketball arena revolves around the band. When I think of college basketball, I think of the band as an integral part of the environment."
When he arrived to campus in the Fall of 2004, much to his dismay, Willingham discovered there was no pep band at Santa Clara. In the past, the Broncos have had the support of their student musicians. But, in recent years, declining interest and a lack of organization of previous bands led to the demise of the group.
However, Willingham was determined to revive the pep band and turn school spirit up a notch. The Seattle, Wash. native collaborated with fellow classmate Taylor Thorn and, together, the pair founded the Bronco Pep Band. The debut performance of the Bronco Pep Band will be on Saturday, October 29 in the Leavey Center, when the Santa Clara women's volleyball team hosts West Coast Conference rival Loyola Marymount at 7 p.m.
"The band is always such a big part of the atmosphere at big games or in the NCAA Tournament and I thought we were really missing that at Santa Clara by not having one," said Willingham.
"Basketball was fun last year," he continued. "It was great hanging out in the student section and being loud, but we felt the pep band was the last thing we needed to complete the experience," added Thorn. "We wanted to add that element of game day experience that everyone always talks about. The main reason we are doing this is to add a little bit of excitement."
Talks about forming a band began last May, when the former suitemates discussed how much better basketball games would be if Santa Clara had a pep band. Not sure where to start, the two naturally turned to the athletic department to get some input on their idea. The athletic department embraced the concept wholeheartedly and the ball got rolling from that point on.
"The athletic department is 100 percent behind their efforts to revive the pep band," said John Schuster, manager of marketing and promotions in the athletic department. "A pep band is an essential element of collegiate athletics and we endorse them completely. The band is part of that unique college experience that is a component of your home team identity. It is something that you can literally see, hear, and feel."
Santa Clara athletic director Dan Coonan added: "We are thrilled with the effort to develop a Santa Clara band. Game day atmosphere means everything to us. With the recent surge in student spirit and Ruff Rider participation, the timing could not be better."
The biggest hurdle facing the revival of a pep band was finding members who would consistently show up for practice and games. Willingham and Thorn decided to target underclassmen in the recruitment process and their decision has paid off handsomely.
The Bronco Pep Band had a large turnout at its first practice in early October and many more students have shown a desire to get involved by emailing Willingham directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
"I think it helps [to sign underclassmen]," said Willingham. "When freshmen first come in, they are looking for that big school spirit you find in other places."
And if a student plays an instrument, there is no better organization than the Bronco Pep Band to showcase their support for the basketball or volleyball team. The goal of the Bronco Pep Band is to increase home court advantage, all while having a great time.
"I just want to have a lot of fun and have people enjoy what we're doing," said Thorn. "I just want to have a great time out there."