UMass music fraternities strengthen bond

By Patrick Hoff

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

When thinking about the University of Massachusetts Marching Band, Greek life may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it is one of the most integral parts of the marching band – from helping paint the fields for practices to making members feel less lost in the 400-person band.

There are about 120 band members who are in one of the four musical Greek service fraternities, about a quarter of the band.

“You don’t need to be in a Greek organization to be on (administrative) staff or anything, there’s plenty of people who aren’t,” said Dan Anthony, a senior trombone section leader who is president of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. “But having all of those people working together to run the monster that is the 400-person marching band, it really is a huge effort from so many people.”

The four service organizations – Tau Beta Sigma, Sigma Alpha Iota, Phi Mu Alpha and Kappa Kappa Psi – include both males and females helping with whatever the band needs, from cleaning and assembling uniforms to making sure that the band is fed and hydrated on performance days.

“The family aspect of band too is a part of our organization and so we try and bring that to all of our music ensembles,” Anthony said.

Anthony got involved in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia after being bugged by a friend from high school to join.

“I had originally been put off by the idea of fraternity which I feel like a lot of kids in the four music groups have been,” he said, “whether the stereotypes from the world, the terrible movies about them, things like that.

“Meeting people from the four different organizations, kind of got me interested in them simply because it was quality people with quality reasons that were in it.”

Anthony said that is was the sense of family and camaraderie that finally drew him in.

“It felt significantly more comfortable being in that type of organization because there was a certain bond related to music whether it was helping music, making music, spreading music to people,” he said.

Shannon Mackey, a sophomore clarinet player and corresponding secretary for Tau Beta Sigma, said that her service organization, during this week and next week specifically, have been put in charge of cleaning and organizing the uniforms before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Mackey said that when she joined the marching band as a freshman, she saw the sisters of TBS and knew that she wanted to join during that first semester.

“I liked seeing all the sisters doing all the field lining and I wanted to be a part of helping out the band more,” she said. “I thought that was always a really cool thing, because I was a drum major in high school so I always liked helping the band.”

Erica Davignon, another member of TBS and a junior flutist, recently joined her service organization during her second semester of her sophomore year because she wanted to get adjusted to college before jumping into something.

“I was a little scared of a 400-person marching band coming from my high school where we only had like 20, so it was a big shock for me,” she said.

Added Davignon: “I knew that I wanted to give back to the band and have a very big impact and role in the service to the band because that always appealed to me.”

Bradley Sampson, on the other hand, jumped into Kappa Kappa Psi during the first semester of his freshman year. He is currently the vice president of service for the fraternity.

“The first couple friends that I made here were like, ‘We’re going to do it, you should do it too,’” Sampson said. “So I ended up doing it and then throughout the membership process I kind of realized that I was with a really big group of guys, and this was my way to stay connected with both music and also service to music.”

Rachel Rivard, the service chair of Sigma Alpha Iota and a junior drum major, said that SAI is more focused on servicing the music department and the Fine Arts Center than the marching band, but they have been trying to do more for the marching band.

“Sigma Alpha Iota is more fundraising for local school bands and more service for the music department like painting the practice rooms and things like that,” Rivard said. “We don’t really have right now a direct service going for the marching band.”

Added Rivard: “When there are things that need a larger group of people these groups are always willing to step in and help when we need them to.”

Every member of the service organizations was adamant that the band was much better off because of the organizations.

“What we do is supported a lot by the people who work for the band, like the ad staff and field staff, all that,” Rivard said. “I know a lot of the people in the Greek organizations are on those leadership teams, but really, having the Greek organizations in each position, it’s really easy to be able to spread our ideas and to be able to get a communal group really working together for service for band so really, we couldn’t do as much as we do without people who are involved.”

Each band member was excited for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and has been working hard with their service organizations to prepare for what Anthony referred to as the “pinnacle of parades.”

Sigma Alpha Iota is selling pies, something that they do annually, but this year they are adding the twist of “bring home wherever you’re going,” according to Rivard. Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia has been contacting alumni in the area to organize an informal quasi-reunion.

Anthony said that as a senior, however, it’s going to be a “weird” experience.

“I’ve done parades in high school, in middle school and with UMass so this being the pinnacle of parades is kind of an interesting close to my marching band career,” he said.

Added Anthony: “We just had senior day which was emotional enough in tears, and all that because it’s kind of the end of my marching band era of life as a performer. But it’s definitely, for me it’s a cool kind of close.”

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s Note, 2:30 p.m. 11/21/2013: A previous version of this article misspelled Kappa Kappa Psi.