Villa Drum Squad gives rhythm to University fans, athletes

By The Beacon | September 23, 2009 9:00pm

By John McCarty

Most people would look twice if they saw a rambunctious mob of kilted men screaming and shouting while mercilessly beating on worn out drums. Not here at UP. It's just the Villa Maria Drum Squad giving it their all to pump up fans and athletes alike.

"I love to play the drums and I love the game of football," said senior Pablo Dipascuale, who co-leads the Drum Squad with fellow senior Andrew Stocks.

Drum Squad wasn't always the rowdy mob it is today. It began in 1994 under a completely different name. Started by former Villa Maria Hall Director Pat Ell and UP alumnus Tim Briare, the group was originally called Ritmo Piloto, meaning rhythm Pilot. The original group was more inclusive than the modern Squad; residents of any dorm could join, including women.

The UP Athletics department sponsored Ritmo Piloto. The department provided the group with Brazilian samba drums and West African djembe drums along with shirts spelling out "PILOTS," and a large UP flag. Ritmo Piloto played rhythms from Cuban and West African cultures.

"Our goal in the early days was to choose a particular rhythm that might help the rhythm of the Pilot game play at a particular point of the game," founder Tim Briare said.

When Briare graduated and Pat Ell left UP, Ritmo Piloto was left leaderless and slid into a period of decline.

In the fall of the 2001-2002 school year, University President the Rev. David Tyson, C.S.C. asked Villa Maria's new Hall Director; the Rev. Pete Pacini, C.S.C,. to revive the Drum Squad.

The change from Ritmo Piloto to Drum Squad came along with Villa Maria's exclusive control of the group. Though no longer funded by the school, Drum Squad continued to provide support at soccer games. UP Alumnus James Capra took over leadership of the Drum Squad in 2002 and introduced the tradition of wearing kilts.

"The kilts and face paint really came about because some of the guys were completely obsessed with 'Braveheart,'" Dipascuale said.

The newer, rowdier Drum Squad retained some of the cheers and rhythms from Ritmo Piloto such as the "Pilots score a goal" cheer, which is based on a traditional Nigerian rhythm.

Along with kilts, many other traditions began with the Drum Squad's reinvention, including many traditional cheers and the Haciamata chant.

"Drum Squad is a really unique experience and it's important to the teams and players," Dipascuale said. "It gives us a chance to combine the energy and unity of Villa with soccer culture."

According to Briare, the modern Drum Squad has much less structure than Ritmo Piloto; however, there is greater student participation. The increased student involvement brings drummers of various skill levels, which can sometimes affect the overall rhythm.

"When the group gels and plays in unified rhythm and song, it creates an awesome environment at Merlo Field," Briare said. "An effect that is unique to Merlo and U.S. collegiate soccer. It's great. That is what soccer is all about to me." 

The Drum Squad is characteristic of the crazy nature often associated with soccer aficionados, the athletes themselves also benefit from the intensity of the crowd.

"Drum Squad is sick," sophomore soccer player Mike Nielsen said. "They are an extra advantage at home, they really psych up the home crowd and give the team extra energy."