By Caroline Chan
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Juliann Negron has been in band since the third grade, and specifically, in marching bands since eighth grade. So, when she started her higher education at Marist College, she knew that was something she wanted to continue.
“I just wanted to try it, ended up loving it, [and] ended up wanting to stay with the band because I met some amazing people and they’re super talented,” Negron said.
Negron, a junior Applied Mathematics major from New York, plays the clarinet and has been a member of the Marist band since her freshman year.
She chose the clarinet in third grade because she thought it wasn’t very complex. “Sure, there’s technique that goes along with it, but you essentially just blow into it,” Negron said.
According to Negron, there’s about 130 band members total and she’s one of 12 clarinet players. She’s actually in all three main bands - marching, pep and symphonic - but she explained that that’s just part of joining the Marist band.
“Most people have never had a problem with this situation,” Negron said. “It’s not like it’ll take up your entire life...In my opinion, it’s not that bad.”
The three bands also have different purposes - marching band plays during football games, pep band plays during basketball games, and symphonic band plays at one sit-down concert per semester. So because basketball season starts up after football season is over, members are only involved in, at most, two bands at a time.
In addition, “pep band doesn’t really rehearse - we just warm up when we get to the [basketball] games,” Negron explained. The music that the pep band plays “is music that we would play during marching band.”
Furthermore, marching band rehearsal only happens during the fall semester, since that’s when football season is and thus, when the marching band is needed. For these rehearsals (which have since ended for the year, since football season is over), the band warms up for about 10 minutes, then they get into an arc and do drill exercises and practice their marching for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then for the rest of rehearsal they practice the halftime show.
These rehearsals were over whenever Arthur (Art) Himmelberger, the director of music and director of bands, wanted them to end. Sometimes they practiced until the lights on the field turned off, which is usually around 11:30 p.m.
“The lights turn off and it’s pitch black and it’s very scary,” Negron said. “Sometimes we’re in the middle of marching and playing, so everyone just stops - you don’t want to bump into anyone.” However, sometimes the band was let out at the scheduled time, which was 11 p.m.
On the other hand, symphonic band rehearsals happen during both semesters, but they’re more regulated in that those rehearsals only last two hours from when they start (taking into account if rehearsal starts late), so they usually run from around 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The reason that the majority of marching band rehearsals focused on the halftime show is because, for the football games, the band doesn’t get too many chances to play outside of the halftime show.
“When it’s not halftime...we only have about two or three opportunities, maximum, that we can play a song,” Negron said. During the short breaks, someone is usually making sponsor announcements or music is playing over the speakers.
The band did have to stay for the entire football game though. “Whenever there’s a first down, we do a little bit of the Marist fight song and when there’s a touchdown, we do the entire fight song,” Negron said.
However, basketball season has now started and that means pep band is happening. Another difference between marching band and pep band is that the latter is split into two smaller bands - red and white.
“It’s because when basketball season really starts up, they’ll have three or four home games a week. That’s a lot - that’s a big commitment for a student,” Negron said. This way, the students only have to play at about half the number of games.
However, this division doesn’t happen until the spring semester, since by the time basketball season starts up for the fall semester, there’s only about a month or so before the semester ends. So, for the fall semester basketball games, students are just assigned certain games based around their night classes.
The band is more involved during the entirety of the basketball games. They show up a half hour early to play while the teams are warming up and practicing, as well as during timeouts and between quarters.
The band also travels occasionally. “We do some sort of marching band festival in the fall...and then in the springtime, we go to the MAAC tournaments up in Albany with the basketball teams,” Negron said. The band is at the tournament as long as Marist’s basketball teams stay in the league.
Negron added that “it’s fun - we get to see other pep bands. Apparently Art Himmelberger started that trend [of] bringing your pep band along with you to the games.”
While Negron loves band overall, she has a clear order - 1) pep band, 2) marching band and 3) symphonic band.
“I love marching band - it’s the reason I joined [the Marist band] - but pep band reigns supreme,” Negron said. “[W]e’re always on our feet, we play fun songs and we also sound really good.”
She also added that because a lot of basketball games happen during the week, not many students attend the games since they’re busy studying or doing homework. “We’re essentially the spirit section most nights,” explained Negron. “We try to make our time worthwhile and we come up with funny chants.”
She mentioned that symphonic band rehearsals haven’t been going too well lately. “For one thing, Art goes off topic a lot - he doesn’t really use our time wisely,” commented Negron. She also said that, “some of the music we play...it’s not very challenging music and I wish that they chose music that [the band members] wanted, over what Art chooses, because he essentially has final say. [However,] they’re open to recommendations and sometimes people do get their recommendations put in.”
In general, Negron said that “there’s been a lack of excitement sometimes. The band morale has been low lately...We also aren’t believing in ourselves as much as we used to.” Some of that is due in part to Himmelberger and the drill captains being a little too demanding or wasting time, in addition to not having a ‘hype man’ this semester. As Negron explained it, that’s usually a stellar student who will keep the band motivated, but they’ve all graduated.
As of recently, Negron said she doesn’t know if morale has gotten better or not - but it definitely hasn’t gotten worse. She explained that since marching band - and marching band rehearsal - has ended, the band members haven’t been voicing their concerns nearly as much as before.
Regardless of this, Negron still enjoys being a part of the Marist band. Not only is it a nice way to relieve stress, but she’s also made a lot of friends through it. “There’s something about the sense of community in the band...there’s this overall sense of acceptance.”