Pep band carries musical legacy for over ninety years

Conductor talks about responsibilities and logistics

PEP BAND MUSICIANS PERFORM all over campus, not just at sporting events as many assume. (file photo)

After covering a Women’s Ice Hockey home game, I came to have a deep appreciation for our RPI’s Pep Band. At what was appeared to be a rather desolate game with an even more desolate crowd, it was the Pep Band that maintained morale and kept spirits high. They executed a series of songs on the fly under the careful direction of conductor Jacqueline Scanlon ’19. The Pep Band not only kept me cheery and alert, but their energy and talent had me impressed. So impressed that I requested an interview with Scanlon to learn more.

The RPI Pep Band was formed in the early 1920s with a mere eight members. The band was managed and lead by A. Olin Niles from the club’s creation in 1923 until his retirement in 1973. It was at this point that the band became a student run and lead organization. The leaders of the band are its two managers and conductor. Managers Dominique Roube ’17 and Susan Zollinger ’18 handle logistics such as bussing the band’s equipment from their practice room in the J-Building up to East Campus Athletic Village or the Houston Field House for games. Other managerial duties include coordinating trips to other schools for away games, copying music, and corresponding with our athletic department and with other schools.

The responsibilities of the conductor, as explained by Scanlon, are to lead rehearsals and maintain the band’s set list. The Band’s library has nearly 500 songs on record. Of course, band members do not have that number of songs in their binders ready to play. Rather, they have a mix of songs spanning from Scanlon’s recent additions, “Shut Up and Dance,” “Uma Thurman,” and “Centuries,” back to old originals, such as “Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer” arranged by Niles.

The Pep Band can be found at any home men’s or women’s hockey game and at any home football game. They follow the hockey teams once a year, each to an away game. If the men’s team make the playoffs, the band will follow them for that as well. The Pep Band itself does not host any concerts, but they are asked often to play for events around campus. These events include Welcome Fest, Relay for Life, and Hockey Line.

With such impeccable structure and organization, it is amazing when Scanlon claims that the club is “pretty laid back.” Becoming a member is as easy as showing up to one event or practice with no audition required. To be a voting member, one simply must show up to several events and practices. It is noted which band members attend away trips is determined based on practice and event rehearsal.

The Band’s objective is to support our athletic teams and our students in general. At the next campus event that you spot them, give them a cheer and let them know that you support them too.

“[We] just hope the teams do well this year. We really…hope they have a great season and hope that all the rest of RPI has a great year as well,” said Scanlon when making her concluding statement.