Boston University’s Pep Band returned to TD Garden on Feb. 14 for the first time since the start of the pandemic to perform for the men’s Beanpot Championship game.
Pep Band is one of BU’s five Athletic Bands. They perform at all home hockey and basketball games, as detailed by their website.
Athletic Bands Assistant Director Sharif Mamoun said the Pep Band’s last in-person performance was Feb. 2020, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Pep Band did not have another live performance until BU’s first hockey game last fall.
“The last performance that I recall doing as a band together was at our traditional on-ice performance…and since that time, there had been nothing,” he said.
Their return follows a full year in which they could not rehearse or play as a full band, Pep Band members said. Instead, band members would split up into small ensembles to rehearse or play virtually by editing videos of each other playing.
“It was when this spring rolled around that we got to do some light performances here and there to try to ring in this spring semester and just spread lots of joy with the community,” said Mica Jadick, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Victoria Paspalas, a first-year graduate student at the College of Fine Arts and BU Bands’ graduate assistant, said the band is trying to adjust to pre-pandemic operations while continuing to accommodate members who have to isolate.
“For the most part, I think we’ve tried to shift away from how we operated last year and go back to what we did before the pandemic,” Paspalas said.
Jadick, who has been involved in BU Bands since her freshman year and is now Pep Band’s trumpet section leader, said performing live again has been “scary” due to COVID-19, but added she is excited about the band’s reunion.
“Across the board, I’ve just been hearing such wonderful sentiments from band members,” Jadick said. “Things feel so good this year. People are getting along really well. Everybody’s very enthusiastic about what we do.”
Jadick said she feels BU Bands’ COVID-19 prevention policies — such as instrument covers that prevent the spread of droplets and recommended twice a week testing for players — make her more comfortable with restarting live rehearsals and performances.
“I think we’ve approached it in a very safe manner and always putting safety first, while also trying to keep doing what we do,” Jadick said.
Mamoun said there are masks designed for playing an instrument, but that the Pep Band is not required to use them unless requested by another university.
“We have been granted an exception based on the nature of our work,” Mamoun said. “That’s something that has been reviewed by the authorities on COVID protocol and the School of Music and as well as [the] College of Fine Arts.”
Chinanuekpele Okoli, a freshman at College of Communication and trombone player in the Pep Band, said the band wore double face masks — one of which had a hole cut in it to play — during the women’s Beanpot game against Northeastern University Feb 8.
“It’s definitely a whole thing to make sure that we keep each other safe even though we’re playing,” Okoli said.
CAS junior Kolade Adegbaye, drum set section leader in Pep Band, said the Pep Band would only rehearse their set twice a semester pre-pandemic, but when COVID-19 policies were set in place, the band focused mainly on practicing after not being allowed to perform.
“We are back to rehearsing less and playing more,” Adegbaye said. “We can play at pretty much every game now, as long as we have the bell covers and we have all the necessary safety procedures.”
Kolade said he is excited for future Pep Band performances, such as the upcoming ice show where band members perform on ice.
“It’s gonna be a big event,” Kolade said. “The ice show definitely is something we’re all looking forward to.”