BU’s gameday soundtrack is back with the Pep Band’s return

The blare of the trumpet has overlooked five men’s hockey national championships on Agganis Arena’s ice. A rumble of the drums has cheered on the men’s basketball program’s seven visits to March Madness. The vibrating strings of the guitar accompanied five football conference titles and the subsequent departure of the gridiron from the Charles River campus. 

The scarlet-and-white uniforms of the Boston University Pep Band have lined the courts, fields and rinks of the Terriers for over 100 years, invigorating fans and athletes alike. 

The Boston University Pep Band performing during the men’s basketball game at Case Gym Nov. 12. No matter how well or how poorly Terrier sports games play out, the band’s roaring music invigorates players and fans alike. MOHAN GE/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Win, lose or draw, the colorful symphony of the BU Bands will be there — standing at the top of section 118 in Agganis or striped up and down the right side of the Case Gym bleachers, blasting the BU fight song, their rendition of the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” or their mix of both classic and contemporary pop songs. 

“You could be down six. You could be up six. It doesn’t matter,” said Brady Gardner, a senior in the College of Communication and saxophone player in the Pep Band. “They’re always having a good time, getting people excited and just making college hockey what it is.”

The BU Band was formed by the infantry unit of the ROTC in 1919 with fewer than 30 members. Immediately, they were known for their appearances at sporting events. 1942 brought on World War II and with it, a brief cease of the BU Band, as its members were called into service. By the end of the war, the BU Band was performing once again and continued performing at athletic events until 2020, with the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic. 

Throughout the pandemic, the band may have been physically separated, but it did not mean they were disbanded. Rehearsals still occurred and the band would even play outside, socially distanced in the bitter New England winter. Within the stadiums, recordings of the band’s cheers and songs permeated the deserted stadium seats. 

Patrick Donnelly, a senior in COM and co-director of WTBU Sports, said he was able to make it into games during the pandemic due to his standing as media personnel. 

“A recording can’t do it justice for the band,” Donnelly said. “You need them there.”

As this semester marks the return of both spectators and the band to sporting events, there was an immediate shift in the gameday feel. 

“It almost feels like being a freshman again,” Gardner said. “You had gone so long without having it, and so now you go back and you remember, ‘Oh, this is what it sounds like.’” 

Inclusivity is central to the philosophy of the band, as the front page of its website highlights how it is open “to all students of Boston University, regardless of major.” The community tab adds that the band is akin to a “new family,” as Gardner further emphasized. 

“Just the camaraderie of it,” he said. “There are so many people who could be from every different school at BU and every year, every different interest, but for three hours on Friday nights, they’re all best friends.”

A major aspect of the BU Pep Band is its impact on the Boston University student cheering section, also known as the Dog Pound. 

“It’s something that really sets apart the college atmosphere from a professional atmosphere,” Donnelly said.

The band is famous for its traditions, including their iconic playout music for the goalie when announcing starting hockey lineups, performing “Hey Baby” after a win, and face paint, among many others. The band is also known to electrify the student section after a goal or important basket. 

“That makes a crazy atmosphere,” Donnelly added, “when it’s deafening crowd noise and you just hear the band piercing through that.”

While the band charges up the student section, it is also important to note its impact on the athletes as well. Guard Javante McCoy, who is a grad student in the School of Hospitality Administration, commented on the return of the Pep Band and fans after men’s basketball’s Nov. 12 home opener against Gordon College. 

“It meant a lot. Going through the whole last year, [we] finally gained some fans in the gym, and it just brought memories back, brought a lot of energy,” McCoy said in a postgame press conference following the team’s 85-61 win. “So, it felt good.”

The Pep Band and athletic teams have maintained a very close relationship, Gardner said. For instance, the band and the men’s hockey team shared a dinner earlier this semester, and the women’s hockey team recently sat in on a rehearsal.

The band is at the intersection between the fans and the athletes. A favorite memory of Donnelly’s is hearing “Hey Baby” after women’s hockey’s 3-2 overtime Beanpot victory in 2019, the team’s first since 1981. 

“Being able to experience all that, and then at the end to have it capped off with all the fans that traveled out to Harvard, even the players on the ice, singing along with the band,” Donnelly said, “that was really cool.”

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  1. Love the Band!