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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Team Spirit from the Sidelines

The quarterback drops back, his eyes darting from one receiver to another, before he hurls the ball into the air. The defenders are caught out of position as a receiver finds himself wide open in the end zone, snagging the football out of the air for a touchdown. But the marching band doesn’t erupt into a celebratory anthem after the score, because on this day it is the marching band that scored the touchdown.

‘You’ll find us out here every Monday and Friday playing,’ says Chris Creamer, a trumpet player for the Stony Brook University marching band, as he takes a breather from the band’s flag football game. Other band members continue their game on the small stretch of grass just outside the Office of Athletic Bands at the Student Union. ‘You should see this place in the winter,’ Creamer says. ‘All the grass is dead from us running around on it so much.’

Inside the office, other members sit and talk in the recreation room known as the ‘Band Space.’ Breanne Nugent, 19, used to be a cheerleader before joining the marching band. Is she happy with her decision to swap her cheerleading uniform for a plumed hat? ‘Oh yea!’ says Nugent, whose props went from pom-poms to a bass drum.’Being a part of the band is great. It’s a place where everyone really feels like they belong.’

With all Stony Brook sports teams competing in Division I, then president Shirley Strum Kenny decided in 2006 that Stony Brook needed a marching band. Jerrold Stein, the dean of students, chaired a committee to get one started. When it formed in the fall of the same year, the band had only 20 members, now known as ‘The Original 20.’

By its debut performance at freshman convocation the following spring, the band had added another eight members. Today, just three years later, the band is 140 members strong.

From the start, Stein chose John Leddy, who had retired from teaching music in the Connetquot school district after 33 years, to become the band director. Three years later, Leddy is still the director ‘- and it feels nothing like a retirement.

‘I originally thought, ‘We’ll play at a football game, take a week off, and then play again,” says Leddy. ‘But now there are so many other events in between.’ The band performs as the Spirit of Stony Brook marching band for football games in the fall, and as the Seawolves Pep Band for basketball games in the spring. But more and more, Leddy says, the students are asked to play at events that have nothing to do with athletics.

‘Last week we played at a lecture given by a guest chemist,’ Leddy said. ‘I asked them, ‘You want us for cheers and stuff? For this?’ And they said, ‘Yea, we do.” The band also plays off campus, such as at the Electric Light Parade in Setauket on December 13. ‘Honestly, the ‘marching band’ aspect is only a small part of what we do,’ he adds. ‘Because a lot of the stuff doesn’t even involve marching.’

As if band weren’t enough in demand, sometimes the members take it upon themselves to perform at events not on the official schedule, in the name of school spirit. ‘One time a bunch of us were hanging out and we saw the lights on at the stadium,’ says Creamer. ‘We saw that there was a woman’s soccer game, so we headed over to cheer them on. And two of us brought trumpets.’

The band’s enthusiasm is rubbing off. After the Seawolves won last year’s homecoming game in dramatic fashion, with the band blaring victoriously, the fans rushed the field. ‘That was awesome,’ Creamer recalls. This year, with the band again blaring, the football team won its two home games ‘- and the fans rushed the field both times.

‘They get the crowd going and definitely make it tough on the opposing team,’ says Dayne Hoffman, quarterback for the Seawolves. Hoffman, who threw the game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds of last year’s homecoming game, says that the band is an integral part of the game-day experience. ‘Hearing the band and the crowd after every score and big play,’ he says. ‘As a player, it’s huge.’

An assistant drum major, Geoffrey Bansen, one of the ‘Original 20,’ helps conduct the band at every performance. Bansen says that joining the band was ‘one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because of what it has become.’ But it was a decision Bansen very nearly didn’t make.

‘I got a call from a friend asking me to join, but I had braces at the time and hadn’t played trumpet in a while,’ Bansen says, explaining how the hardware in his mouth impaired his ability to play. ‘I really didn’t want to do it. I was a freshman; I was worried about lots of work. But I thought ‘I’ll just go and I could always quit.” But Bansen didn’t quit and he says he takes pride in the band’s ability to whip up excitement and energy.

‘The campus feeds off it,’ he says. ‘The band is a big reason why people come to games. The basketball games used to have just a few people going, now there are tons. The school has become a lot more spirited.’

Whether the band is playing off campus, performing at a ceremony or lecture, or leading thousands of excited fans in cheering for the home team, the band has cemented itself as a prominent and popular fixture at Stony Brook University.

‘Being in the band is like the thing to do now,’ Bansen says. ‘It’s pretty sweet to be a part of that.’

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