UMass Marching Band section leaders keep band enthusiastic

By Jaclyn Bryson

Despite the added hours and extra work that leaders of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen Marching Band put into organizing and running their sections, there is one thing they always strive to do: Make it fun.

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

“We really try to make sure that we’re not taking things too seriously,” said senior Sarah Lenau, leader of the 21-person tenor saxophone section. “We still want to make sure we are having fun because that’s what the band is about.”

Section leaders of the UMMB are in charge of a variety of duties, ranging from preparing and delegating parts of practice, organizing warm-ups, supervising the band members and just maintaining a good vibe throughout rehearsal.

“As the season goes along, people just get more tired and they have a lot more schoolwork to do. Finals are coming up and they get really worried,” said senior Andrew deMelo, leader of the 45-member clarinet section. “So most of what I try to do is keep the energy up.”

In order to maintain this positive energy, band leaders also make sure that all their section members bond, both during and outside of practice.

“One of the great things about this band is how it’s so student-run,” said senior Ian Wudyka, leader of the 35-member drum line. “So it’s pretty much impossible not to talk and meet all of your section.”

“It kind of amazes me how well my section gets along. We have dinner pretty much every night, hang out all the time,” added deMelo. “And it’s rarely me who plans this stuff. It’s mostly the kids in the section, because they’re so close with everyone else in the section.”

But being a leader is not without its challenges.

“I think one of the challenges is that you have to deal with so many personalities,” said Lenau. “Trying to get 21 people on the same page—at the same time, when it’s cold, when it’s windy, when they don’t want to be there, when they’re tired—is really hard.”

“It’s tough to motivate people to make band (a part of) their life for the whole semester, even when they have tests to take, studying, class, trying to find a job,” added Wudyka. “As a leader, we’re kind of in the mindset that band is the afternoon activity every single day. It’s tough to motivate everyone to be on that same page.”

And as the day that the band will head to New York City to participate in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade approaches, the section leaders are tasked with preparing students for their televised performance.

“The Macy’s drill has been really difficult. It’s really hard when you confine 400 people to such a small space,” said Lenau. “Trying to keep people engaged is the hard part for us.”

“Usually at this point in the season, we are done. Our brains are shut off; we are focused on finals,” added junior Julia Cardillo, who leads the 29-member color guard section.

Despite their experience and positions of authority in the band, the section leaders admitted that some of them are nervous for their televised appearance.

“We’ve been (practicing) on the field. … Who knows what sorts of things are going to be in our way,” Wudyka said.

“With color guard, there are so many unknown factors that could affect your performance,” Cardillo added. “What if I’m in the front row and I drop my flag?”

But despite all the nerves and extra work required for their performance at Macy’s, section leaders also hope that band members take this time to unwind and enjoy New York City before the parade.

“Everything we do is so structured all the time,” Cardillo said. “So it’s really nice to get away with everyone.”

“I’m just going to encourage my section to enjoy their time,” Lenau said. “We have free time, which we never have. We’re staying in a hotel, which we never do. So they should definitely take advantage and hang out with as many people as they can and go experience as many things as they possibly can.”

And as the leaders march alongside their fellow band members on Thanksgiving, they all hope that the people lining the streets of New York City and those watching from home will have a new appreciation for those who devote their time and effort to being a part of the band.

“I came from a high school where being in band wasn’t exactly the coolest thing to do. But here, when you tell people you’re in the band, they’re like, ‘That’s so awesome,’” Lenau said. “I hope that’s what people take away: That being in band is awesome.”

Jaclyn Bryson can be reached at [email protected]