When most people, when think of the University of Maine hockey, think of the student section with the Naked Five, the cheers, chants and overall enthusiasm associated with the Black Bears. For both hockey and basketball though, these games would not be the same without the Pep Band. Performing at all men’s hockey and men’s and women’s basketball games, the Pep Band is as much of a staple as the game itself. When it comes to increasing school spirit, the Pep Band has us covered.
“There is a sense of school spirit that you will not be able to find anywhere else but in the UMaine Screamin’ Black Bear Pep Band. It doesn’t matter if we are winning or losing, the band is always there to play and cheer on our team,” third-year child development and family relations student Julia Waldron said.
Waldron has been a member of the pep band since her second year, when she was convinced to join by her friends in Symphonic Band and Tau Beta Sigma, the honorary band service sorority. She joined Marching Band first, shortly followed by Pep Band when she realized she had found her place in sports bands.
“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Waldron said.
Other members of the band reiterate this sentiment.
“It’s awesome that we create [the atmosphere at the games],” second-year elementary education student Abby Elkins said. “We played at the women’s hockey games last weekend and they were very grateful. It was awesome to know that we made that much of an impact on people.”
Although the bands typically don’t play at the women’s hockey games, for the first round of America East play at home, the band played at all three of their games against Boston University. They also travelled down to Portland to play at the women’s basketball game, but they are only able to travel to select championship games. Band Director Christopher White said that if the teams make NCAA playoffs, the band will definitely go, but other games are hit or miss depending on the location, sport and importance of the game.
Not everyone knows that the Pep Band isn’t a club at the university. Instead, it’s a class that students can take for one or zero credits, which can help fill general education requirements. They have scheduled class time where they practice their music, complete with a syllabus and a grade. This semester the enrollment for that class is at 119 students, which is enough to have three bands. By having three bands, it makes it so that students don’t have to play at every single game, but instead at every third game. According to the band’s graduate assistant Erik Paulsen, this helps to avoid burnout over the season.
With the season being as long as it is, this could be a real concern. The band starts when the basketball and hockey teams start in mid-October and goes all the way through the end of playoffs in mid-March. Although this may seem like a huge commitment, the people who do it are passionate about the work they do.
“No matter the score at any time during the game, we are all also happy to be there. We get to play and cheer for our school,” Waldron said.
It’s more than just rooting for the team though. White says being a part of any band, including the Pep Band, is key to being part of the campus and getting more out of your time at the university.
“Being part of a band is part of being a part of campus in a different way. It’s campus life. Anyone who puts more than just the classes into the community is going to get more than just the classes out of it,” White said.
Anyone who knows Black Bear hockey or basketball knows the traditions and cheers that go with it. Whether it is the penalty chant or hearing the Stein Song at the beginning of every game, the band fills that need, full of spirit and traditions.
“If we are playing a song we’ve never played before, we’ll just make up our own moves to it or yell things randomly. To do it and see all the new people pick up on it, it’s like, ‘We made that’,” Elkins said.
Both Paulsen and White said that the students and the crowd just add things along the way to form the traditions that the student section knows and loves.
“I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you we just did something over and over again until it happened. And why do we do it, is there some secret reason… no. Not that I know of at least. The same thing with the audience. Someone started a dance and someone thought it was cool and so it caught on,” White said.
Although both the Marching Band and the Pep Band perform at sporting events, the two groups are different bands. There are different people within the two bands and the structure of them is also distinct. With Marching Band, there is the added element of movement and playing outside to consider, requiring significant practice before being ready to perform. The only thing that the Pep Band needs to learn is the music, the different dances and the cheers that go along with it.
“We teach everyone the Stein Song and how to do the intro. We hold those traditions dear because we are the ones who start everything else that goes on,” White said. “The drummers, we have to teach how to do the penalty cheer.”
The music that is played every year is passed on through the upperclassmen, with different sections teaching the new members what to do for different movements and traditions throughout the game.
Everyone had a different way of making it to the band either through participating in the band or experiencing their music. They all know, though, that without the Pep Band Black Bear sporting events would not be the same.
“I like the enthusiasm. I like that the band is a part of the entire experience. People have been to games when the band is there and isn’t and it isn’t the same. I like how they contribute to the entire experience of the event,” Paulsen said.
Although there may be no rhyme or reason for why the band does what they do, they have made Black Bear hockey and basketball into what they are today: institutions of UMaine. Lucky for us, they love doing it too.
“We’re just happy to be there before, during and after the game no matter what,” Waldron said.