Club Spotlight

100 Years of music with Rensselaer’s Pep Band

This year, Rensselaer’s Pep Band reached an enormous milestone, celebrating their 100-year anniversary. Since the early 1920s, the Pep Band has served as a fundamental symbol of Rensselaer spirit, encompassing the history and legacy of RPI through music. It has seen RPI through historical events and evolved from an original marching and pep band into a musical group that has been passed down through generations. Through thousands of sporting events, the Pep Band’s notes and liveliness have become an essential part of our school.

Since then, RPI’s Pep Band has shared their never-ending spirit and musical talent with the community. They have established cheers, a thorough musical repertoire, and a reputation as the sound of Rensselaer. The band attends sporting events, filling the stadiums with joyful and spirited music as RPI’s athletes compete. In addition, they also participate in various outreach activities that extend past the RPI campus and out into the community, including the Troy Waterfront Market. Their endless spirit and commitment to the band and the purpose its energy brings to not only the stadium, but also the college community as a whole; the RPI Pep Band is a musical service all students can enjoy and rally with. In addition, when getting caught up in the excitement of sports, it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the dedicated musicians that contribute to students’ excitement and athletes’ spirits and raise the comradery of all RPI’s community.

Despite recent setbacks from the pandemic, the group remains energetic and enthusiastic, with about 40 members regularly attending games and Saturday practices. Most of the current Pep Band members are first-years who have entered college with previous experience in high school through activities like marching band or regular band class. They join Pep Band to continue their musical career in a group that represents their school. Members devote their weekends to playing their instruments, oftentimes for hours at a time. Executive Manager Ungorr Nassery ’23 describes the long hours, stating “sometimes we’re together from 10am to 10pm, and we get tired, but we’re still having a good time.” The band attends both home and away games and travels with athletes to major sports games like the Mayor’s Cup, as they have for many years prior. They have hundreds of songs in Pep Band archives. Traditional songs like RPI’s Alma Mater and “Hail, Dear Old Rensselaer” depend on the Pep Band to keep that portion of RPI’s history alive, as well as add on to the archives. One song in particular, “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner, is performed by the Pep Band with the goal of playing it as fast as possible. The song is normally played around three minutes long but currently the band can play it in just 48 seconds.

The band is currently run by conductors Sean Trimper ’25 and Henry Rogers ’25 and has four managers: Ungorr Nassery ’23, Megan Fife ’23, Mike Dumford ’26 and Mike O’Keefe ’25. The Pep Band is an essential part of RPI’s community and members devote themselves and their time into uniting and encouraging Rensselaer. Pep Band manager Megan Fife ’23 describes this connection by reminding everyone that the Pep Band is “more than musicians, more than sports spectators.” She also describes there being a “synergy” between the two, which “creates a really unique environment to be a part of.”

RPI celebrates the legacy of the Pep Band this year at the 2023 Big Red Freakout game this Saturday, February 11 at 7:00 pm as RPI competes against Yale University. Many alumni will return, some to play alongside the band once again, to commemorate the legacy of the Pep Band that has kept RPI’s students, athletes, alumni and staff together for a century. As the sounds of RPI’s history fill the stadium this Saturday, we should reflect upon a century of America’s Pep Band, appreciating the energy and presence of its dedication towards RPI and the history it has written, all through music.