The Boston College Pep Band is an intrinsic part of men’s and women’s hockey and basketball games. Students all know it by the songs it performs between plays and during rest periods. It energizes both the fans and the players, and hockey and basketball games certainly wouldn’t be the same without it.
Behind their energizing songs and essential presence is hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm on the part of the Pep Band members.
Many students aren’t aware that the Pep Band is different from the Screaming Eagles Marching Band that plays at football games, although many students choose to play in both ensembles. The Pep Band season begins in late fall when the hockey and basketball seasons commence.
“We accept anyone who has musical experience and who enjoys cheering on the Eagles,” said Julia Burkett, a member of the Pep Band executive board and A&S ’14, in an email.
In total there are around 140 members in the Pep Band, although about 29 members play at each game. At the beginning of each season, the executive board assigns each member to perform at a certain amount of hockey and basketball games and tries to base those assignations on their members’ preferences.
The Pep Band practices once a month to go over new songs (as opposed to the football marching band, which practices several times a week).
“This is because there are many more hockey and basketball games than there are football games, so we have many more chances to go over music before each game,” Burkett said.
Another difference between the marching band and the Pep Band is the selections of songs it plays. The Pep Band has a catalogue of songs that it can choose from to play at each game.
Each year, the Pep Band adds contemporary songs to its repertoire, while also keeping some staple favorites, such as “Carry On my Wayward Son” by Kansas and “Impression That I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
The director and conductors choose which songs will be played during each break to maintain a variety at each sporting event.
“Some of the songs always are played only at certain times,” Burkett said. “For example, we play ‘Seven Nation Army’ when we are trying to kill a power play in hockey. This is to get the Superfans chanting along with the music so that we can bring energy to the team.”
Other, longer songs, such as “Carry On my Wayward Son” and “The Impression That I Get,” are saved for the time between periods and halves so the band has enough time to play the whole song without interruption.
The band welcomes feedback from the athletes, coaches, and non-student fans as well.
“Another thing that we recently learned is that the women’s hockey team loves when we play “Timber,” which is one of our newest arrangements,” Burkett said. “We love getting feedback like that so we knows what songs get our teams pumped up.”
Other songs, such as “Just a Friend” and “Can’t Hold Us,” will always get a good crowd reaction, as fans love to sing and dance along.
Before every hockey and basketball game, the members assigned to play will arrive an hour before the game begins. They rehearse in the band room before going to the stands.
Fifteen minutes before hockey games start, they do the “March Around”: the Pep Band sets up in a block and marches around the concourse while playing “For Boston.”
“All of the Superfans will join in as we march past them,” Burkett said. “It is a great tradition that we do to get everyone excited for the game.”
Besides playing at the hockey and basketball games, the Pep Band will occasionally play the National Anthem at other sports events.
They don’t travel to the away games but will play at most post-season tournaments, including the Beanpot, Frozen Four and National Championship, Hockey East Tournament, basketball ACC Tournaments, and basketball NCAA Tournaments.
“Everyone who is a member will get an opportunity to travel to at least one of these tournaments,” Burkett said.
Burkett’s favorite event to perform at during hockey season is the Beanpot, because, according to her, “It is always a very exciting atmosphere.”
She also enjoys playing at the women’s basketball games.
“We have a great relationship with the team, and they are very receptive when we cheer and play ‘For Boston’ at the end of the game,” she said.
Burkett also mentioned how exciting the energy is at all hockey games in general. “The games are really face paced,” she said.
“The games are fast paced, which means that the band always has to be ready to play at any second,” she said.
“We have to start playing right after the ref blows the whistle, and then we have to stop when he drops the puck. It can be a challenge, but it keeps everyone on their toes.”
Being a member of the BC Pep Band requires high energy, enthusiasm, and a dedication to all aspects of BC sports. “The entire band is a very enthusiastic group and we love cheering on all of our student-athletes,” Burkett said.
Perks of being in the Pep Band include the ability to travel to post-season tournaments that many students usually would not get an opportunity to travel to and attending the hockey and basketball games with friends while playing music.
“The best feeling for me is when we see the fans dancing or singing along to the songs that we play,” Burkett said. “That is how we know we are doing our job.”