Arts & Entertainment

Pep Band makes a musical return to football season

Kapil Davé shows school spirit as he takes a breath to play in the MCHS pep band at Pack the Stadium Night on Sept. 23, 2022 (Photo: Claire Wu, The Puma Prensa)

By Claire Wu, staff writer & Josie Eubank, staff writer

Maria Carrillo High School’s pep band disappeared three years ago. But on Sep. 13, 2022, pep band returned.

From sometime before 2013 until its disappearance, the MCHS pep band played at each of the MCHS varsity football’s home games. Consisting of the students of all three MCHS band ensembles—Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble, formerly named “Honors Symphonic Band”—pep band is the “vehicle to get the crowd excited at football games,” said Matt Bringedahl, band and orchestra director here at MCHS. 

In 2017, the first wildfires that Santa Rosa residents had seen in Sonoma County this century momentarily halted pep band, but it was not until the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County that pep band permanently stopped. 

The following year, school campuses closed in March as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. By the time students returned to school for a full year on school campus, Bringedahl decided against the return of pep band. The collective sound of his band students at this time was uncertain after having spent a considerable amount of time away from playing as a whole. COVID-19 restrictions during the 2021-2022 school year, such as a limit on the number of people the MCHS stadium could hold, also prevented or hindered pep band’s playing.

This year, the MCHS pep band had not originally planned on returning to the MCHS football field due to insufficient funding from the band and orchestra program’s primary resource, Band Boosters, a non-profit parent organization. In addition, rehearsing for pep band took away from educational class time, where band students typically practice technique and more advanced material that “[develops] players into better musicians,” said Bringedahl.  

Furthermore, pep band’s appeal to band students had declined, as the time needed to participate in this school-pride-enhancing band became too much. “Pep band can be a lot, and it’s a big time commitment to do every Friday night when we have other sports or work outside of school,” said Penny Gong, a senior band student at MCHS. 

In the past, pep band took 25-30 hours of each band student’s outside-of-school time, as they were required to play at all five home games each year. Students in the MCHS jazz band went to school from 7 a.m. to 3:05 p.m., then stayed at school from 5:00 p.m. to between 10:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. every Friday when there was a home varsity football game. “I lose students in band,” said Bringedahl, since pep band is “a mandatory thing.”

Although rehearsing for pep band can cut in on practice time for the students to play and learn their pieces for upcoming performances, several band students mutually agreed that pep band is an effective way of promoting school spirit.

On Sep. 12, 2022, five band students were surveyed during fifth period AP Literature. When asked whether or not they would like pep band to return, four out of the five students responded yes. The following day, band students received a new Google Classroom assignment, telling them to practice pep band music material. 

As it turns out, MCHS co-leadership advisor and AP Literature teacher Natasha Deakins called Bringedahl on the same day as the survey, after hearing the survey being conducted in her classroom, to ask whether our school’s pep band would be willing to play at Pack the Stadium Night. Though Bringedahl initially said no, Deakins was persistent in convincing the pep band to return, claiming that she would help find a way to provide funding for the MCHS band program. With Deakins’ encouragement, Bringedahl then agreed to restart the MCHS pep band. 

“Band is going above and beyond, so they deserve compensation,” said Deakins. “If money is the issue, we will make it happen.” 

Since then, MCHS leadership has fronted a donation to the MCHS band program, ensuring that the MCHS pep band plays this year. Rather than playing at every home football game, this year’s pep band only plays at two games: Pack the Stadium Night on Sep. 23, and Homecoming on Oct. 14. 

Sep. 23, the day of Pack the Stadium Night, marked the pep band’s premiere for 2022. At the MCHS varsity football game against Santa Rosa High School, bleachers were packed with band students and their instruments beneath the bright stadium lights. As the band started to play, the cheering and clapping from the stands grew louder as music filled the air. 

“Pep band fosters a sense of unity among the different students at our school,” said Gemma Ahern, a senior at MCHS. Some students danced, while others sang or hummed along, and there was a clear boost in enthusiasm as the songs continued to play. 

The pep band proved to be an excellent way to enhance both school spirit and pride through its music: overall, making an impressive comeback. 

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