Get to know UP's Pep Band
At University of Portland basketball games, some of the best plays are made off the court — on the sidelines, in fact. Over in the corner, behind the basket, stands the group of spirit patrons, filling Chiles with roaring sounds of music and school spirit. UP’s Pep Band is a key player in making UP basketball games what they are: spirited, fun and a place to show your Purple Pride.
This season, the pep band performed at men’s and women’s home basketball games on Thursdays and Saturdays. They are the often unsung heroes boosting spirit at UP basketball games, which have now ended for the season. In the last 10 years, the pep band has grown from 15 to 70 members under the leadership of pep band director Patrick Murphy.
The pep band is made up of flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones and saxophones. Added to that is a drum set and an electric base for some of the rock-based songs it plays. The pep band is also split up into two teams to accommodate students’ varying schedules. The A Band plays on Thursday nights, and the B Band plays on Saturday nights.
The auditions for pep band are held in the fall and are open to all majors. Band members hold a student employment position through the UP Athletics Department and are paid minimum wage.
“Anyone who’s had experience playing in high school usually has enough experience to play in pep band,” Patrick Murphy, music professor and the pep band director, said.
At the beginning of the semester, the pep band holds one large rehearsal where it practices over 70 songs, but that is the only time it meets outside of the basketball games. Students have to practice on their own or before games. The only requirements are reliability, dedication and an ability to know and play music.
The pep band has a strong relationship with the UP dance team. As leaders of school spirit, these two teams often work together to cheer on the basketball team and engage the crowd.
“My favorite song is ‘Runaway Baby’ because we get to do that one with the dance team,” Kaileigh Grishaber, senior pep band co-director, said. “We both get to be super involved, so it’s a win-win.”
Last week, the pep band and dance team travelled together to Las Vegas for the WCC championship tournament to support the men’s basketball team and represent UP.
“Those girls are awesome,” Murphy said. “We always have a family dinner with them and the band in Vegas.”
The WCC tournament is an annual tradition for the pep band and a time that many members look forward to every year.
“I really like the group cohesion and how everybody is really there for each other,” Grishaber said. “I love the Vegas trip that we take every year because we get really close and get to spend a lot of time together.”
The Vegas tournament also allows the pep band to interact with other bands in the West Coast Conference.
“We actually have a great relationship with BYU (Brigham Young University),” Murphy said. “We’ll do a post-game concert with them and trade back and forth across the court. Other than that, it can be almost like a battle of the bands.”
Sometimes the pep band will step in and play for other teams that can’t afford to bring their bands to the tournament, according to junior trombone player Justin Olson.
Perhaps the most important part of pep band is the sense of camaraderie and strong community between the players. Players in different sections get to know each and grow closer through small traditions each season.
“If the basketball team gets a certain number of three pointers in a game, they hand out Buffalo Wild Wings coupons,” Olson said. “So that by the end of the season, we’ve usually collected quite a few of those and some of the band members get together and go there for dinner.”
While the basketball games are entertaining on their own, the pep band adds a special element to the games that promotes team spirit and excitement. Whether the basketball team wins or loses, the pep band works hard to cheer on the players and engage the crowd, no matter what the score is.
“It’s a lot of fun to be able to go to a game and know that I’m participating in building the experience,” Olson said.