Pep Band History:
|The following is a collection of stories accumulated over the years highlighting the history and adventures of the pep band.|
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Pep Band History, 1990-1998
As recounted by Mike "Sparky" SklarAfter the wonderful job "The UCSD Guardian" did of portraying the band's history, I was asked to put together a history of the band. Much of this comes from what few facts I remember and was able to confirm through old issues of the Guardian (I don't trust the writing, but I do trust the ads). If I say anything that causes anyone any embarrassment or they think I'm wrong about something, I apologize. Again, this is based on my experience in the band and what I knew was going on at that time.
Best spot to begin is the formation of the band. Despite what some of you may think, I wasn't around for the start of this whole thing. Pep Band was founded by then Wind Ensemble Director Cindy Earnest in Fall of 1983. From the very beginning, the group consisted of a mix of undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members with a wide variety of backgrounds. When I finally joined up in '88, many of the members had been in the band since the start and there seemed to be an equal number of undergraduates to graduate and medical students, staff and community members. We would average about 20-30 people per game, but it would usually be a pretty balanced sound. One of the games that stands out the most was when we had almost 40 people show up! 2 Sousaphones, 6 trombones, 8 trumpets, 5 french horns, 2 drummers, 8 Saxes, 6 clarinets and 3 flutes. We had an incredible sound and were doing some technically difficult pieces at the time.
At the time I joined up we were performing in the main gym and rehearsing in Mandeville. During performances, we'd have to wheel a rack of stands and the drums from Mandeville to the main gym (sounds easy, but try maneuvering a stand cart up the handicap ramp sometime and you'll see how wrong you are). We were being funded by both the Athletic Department and the A.S., as well as performing for some high paying gigs so money for things like advertising and road trips usually wasn't a problem. From the time I joined until the end of '90, we would charter a bus for 1 road trip/quarter, load it with a keg, several cases of soda, cheese balls, pretzels and many other forms of junk food and head up for the gig.
When we arrived at the gigs, the band was usually pretty...happy, shall we say? The more we drank, the better we sounded (at least according to those that had been drinking). On the roadtrips with the Women's Volleyball team we would meet up with them for pizza and drinks after the game before heading back to San Diego.
Some of the paying gigs we did back then were: performances for the flower show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, fund-raising dinner for Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan, the opening of the Sheraton on Torrey Pines Rd., and the opening of the Scripps Fisheries. One of the results of all of this fund-raising was the Pep Band's first banquet (that I know of) in 1990. We rented out a room at one of the restaurants in Balboa Park and had a really good time.
Another result of the fund-raising was the first overnight roadtrip the band ever took. We had raised enough money and had gotten enough out of AS and athletics to take a charter bus for 2 days, load it with food and drink, get a hotel with 4 to a room, and have each person pay $20-40 (I forget the exact amount, but it was pretty cheap)! We left late afternoon on Friday to Pomona-Pitzer, did a gig that night, slept over and did another gig Saturday. We went out to dinner with the team Saturday night and returned to San Diego that night. A pretty good weekend.
At the end of the '89-90 school year, director Cindy Earnest announced she would be moving on to pursue an advanced degree in music directing. With her leaving, many of the community members that had been a part of the band decided to move on with their lives as well or went on to do other things. Between the loss of the community members and seniors graduating, the core of the band was reduced to about 14 people, none of us sure about who the new director would be or what would happen next.
In the Fall of 1990, the band returned to discover that we had a new director. Larry Stoffel had been hired by the music department to take over the Wind Ensemble (ironically enough, when Cindy announced she was moving on, Bob Zelickman was one of the people we played for when the music dept. was auditioning for a new director). One of the first things that Larry did was to sort through our music, which at the time was held loosely in folders similar to what you’d find in a Trapper Keeper. It took 5 minutes of searching to come up with a song once it was called. Larry got the funding to buy UCSD 3-ring binders, photocopied all of the music and numbered them so it would be easier to call songs during games.
That year was also a rebuilding year for the band. When Cindy left, many of the community members and uppergraduates who had played with her over the years left too, leaving the band with almost all Freshpersons and Sophomores. While our rehearsals did get a little stricter than they had been, the results musically had the band performing at a level higher than it had ever been before. At this time, aside from the shortage of percussionists at UCSD, we were also suffering a shortage of trombone players. Between the Jazz Ensemble, the La Jolla Symphony and the Wind Ensemble, I believe there were only about 6 trombones. This left maybe 1 trombone for Pep Band. To help alleviate this condition, Larry had somehow managed to convince some players from the Sea World Marching Band to come and perform with us on a regular basis. This also helped to raise our level of musicality. By the time 1991 came around, the band was at a high musically and in attendance (we were averaging about 25-30 people a game). Larry had also become famous for being the director who did the “Bacon Dance” during “Wipe Out” (there’s a story behind that as well, but that’s for another issue). Things seemed to be going well. We had withdrawn from the A.S. in an attempt to gain legitimacy as a music organization so we could be considered a class by the music department, enabling us to get funded as a class as well as gaining credit for all of the work we put into the band.
In Spring of 1992, disaster struck on many levels. Budget cuts had resulted in the layoff of many staff members from the Music Department, including Larry. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the music department had been broken into and the band had lost its snare, one of the bass drums, a cowbell, and one of the toms (a rare, Yamaha 15” Tom). At the end of it all, Larry had decided to return to school, but before he left we attempted to get a new advisor for the band.
The Music Department had let athletics know that the advisor for the band would have to be either a faculty or staff member of the music department in order for the band to get rehearsal space, storage space for the drums, and access to the stands we needed for the gigs. Many of the faculty members and graduate students were either too busy to take the job or thought that a Pep Band had no business existing in a department that is dedicated to experimental music. Things were looking pretty bleak for the band’s continued existence. At the time, I was taking percussion lessons with then graduate student, Sigmund Rothchild. I told Sig of the band’s predicament and he expressed interest in taking on the group. After informing Larry of this, he spoke to Sig, introduced him to the necessary people, and the next year Sig took over as the new director for the Pep Band.
In the Fall of 1992, the band returned to discover that we had yet another new director: Sigmund Rothschild. Sig was a Ph.D candidate in the music department and had been convinced to take on the responsibilities of the Pep Band. His personality and strict rehearsal style improved on the quality of the sound of the band, but drove away many members who were looking to perform in a more laid back environment. Sig was able to recruit from new students in the music department both on an undergraduate and graduate level, so for the first time the Pep Band had lead guitar and electric bass accompanying it. This allowed us to have a fuller sound and gave us an option for small ensemble performance during time outs when the band was on break or had been mostly preempted by announcements. Later on that year, Sig had set up recording equipment in B-202 and had recorded the Pep Band performing several songs. Unfortunately, broken editing equipment in the Music Department and a lack of funds to fix it combined with budget cuts the following year made it impossible for a final tape to be made.
In the Fall of 1993, the thing that we had been dreading the most happened: budget cuts had eliminated most of the budget for the band. Having most of his salary cut, Sig was forced to cut back on his involvement in the band. At the start of the year, he assigned 3 people to be directors for the band, one of who was freshperson Melissa Bryant. Sig would listen to the rehearsals while working on projects in the computer lab and let the directors know what songs could and could not be played. This led to a difference in opinion as to who should be making that call: students who were there and rehearsing or a director taking a hands off approach to the band. Low turnout and some bad decisions on both sides resulted in a poor sounding band and a bad review in an editorial in “The UCSD Guardian”. These events finally forced Sig to lock up the music and shut the band down in April 1994.
Sig quit the job at the end of that year and it looked like it was the end of the band. Then student director Melissa Bryant took on the awesome task of rebuilding the band from scratch. This would mark a fundamental change in both the long and short-term goals of the band and in how the band was run.
1994 - 1998:
In Fall 1994, the Pep Band was re-started by then Band President Joel Neal and Director Melissa Bryant. It was an exciting time for the band. From this point forward, the band would be student run with its main goals being survival, growth, and entertainment for both the players and the audience. With a band consisting of mostly freshmen and sophomores, the band once again went about learning its music. The band had been doing some great things that quarter and had received no recognition for the events. No official history or yearbook was being kept of the band, so many of the events from the band’s past were being lost as members graduated and moved on. Combined with a greater need to get the word out on events, the newsletter “Notations” was started to fill these needs. While all of these things were exciting, it was also the most dangerous time in the band’s existence. RIMAC was not completed yet and while the band was performing in the Main Gym, they were still rehearsing in Mandeville, home of the Music Department.
The UCSD Music Department is dedicated to the study of experimental music, with a program that is geared mainly towards the graduate students who are studying there. The Department tends to frown upon most forms of conventional music (contemporary or classical), with very few exceptions, as it goes against the reason for its existence. The Pep Band had the 2 things the department liked least: undergraduate musicians performing contemporary music (although some of our performances made the music sound experimental). Even though the band performed at athletic events and what little funding we did get was from the athletic department, in order to use the Music Department rooms for rehearsal, carts to move equipment, and Music Department stands, we had to have a staff member from the Music Department signing off on these things. When the band turned student org, they no longer had the staff member signing off on these things and were thrown out of Mandeville and banned from using the stands and carts. At this time the Athletic Department stepped up. With the dismantling of the Physical Education department, several offices became available in the Main Gym. The band was given one of the offices for storage of equipment and music. The money the band had earned performing at the political rally’s years ago was turned over to the band to buy music stands (although we did not know it was that money at the time). The large blue cart was built to haul the drums into the gym. But the music department wasn’t done with the band yet. They locked up the drumset and claimed it was theirs. We were able to find the Purchase Order used to buy the set and get it back. The band was finally free of the Music Department.
In Winter 1995 RIMAC Arena opened. They had an equipment closet that was mostly theirs, rehearsal space in the green room, and a new venue to perform in. For the next 2 ½ years, the band was improving both musically and socially. The website, pepband-event and pepband-chat had been started, parties were more prevalent, and we started attending Picnic Day up in Davis. We had a solid group, rehearsal space, music stands, and freedom. We were registered with A.S. so we had some funding for copies available to us. Many of the officers and members had either graduated or were graduating by Spring of 1997.
In Fall 1997 the new officers had taken office. Due to work and school conflicts though, the Pep Band President was rarely around and only the minimum of work was being done in terms of scheduling and web page updating. The lack of leadership culminated when it came time for the Picnic Day trip. Many of the things that had to be done weren’t. Things might have gone very poorly if then sophomore treasurer, Charles Ruggiero, hadn’t stepped up. Organizing most of the officers, Charlie coordinated efforts with everyone and worked until almost 2 AM putting the trip together. Come the next election, Charlie was voted President, a position he would hold until Spring 2000.
In Fall 1998, the band would have a new cadre of leaders that would once again take the band in a new direction. Recognizing the fact that the band needed to be more mobile for road trips and parades, President Charles Ruggiero and Vice President Aaron Rozenek spent the summer converting the music from book form to something that would fit into flip folders. Some of the other members helped with numbering the songs or with making copies of the music. Equipment Manager Mike Sklar had replaced the stripped tom holders with new fittings for the drum set, replaced stripped hardware and stretched drumheads, and worked with a friend to build the new equipment box to replace the blue cart. He also picked up a marching snare and worked with Treasurer Karen Waitman to work out a budget to submit to A.S. for marching equipment. A.S. approved the budget so when school started in 1998, the band had a full line of marching percussion equipment. The band also did some aggressive fund raising that year allowing them to charter a bus to UC Davis for the first time.
Which brings us to now. I have tried to give you an idea of where the band has come from, what we have gone through, what we have gained and what we have lost. I leave it to you to continue the story.
There is a saying: "There are three sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in between." I have tried to give as accurate and unbiased accounting of the band history as I can, with one exception, which I’ll talk about in a moment. Most of the information was based on events as I experienced them or on research that I did. Any dates that I listed were taken from documented sources. Others may read this who might disagree with some of what I wrote. That’s fine, I always thought that there was more going on than I was aware of and sometimes I was more aware of what was going on than the band. Again, the truth lies somewhere in between. Feel free to let me know where I erred. In cases of conflict, I tried to show both sides of the story and not to place blame. Where I could, I omitted names to avoid embarrassment.
The exception to the unbiased: The Music Department. The department did everything in their power to try and get us disbanded. They took away our rehearsal space, our stands, our carts, and our instruments. Many of the faculty and staff treated the band and what it represented as a joke. The Music Department probably would have succeeded in its attempts, at least in the short term, if it hadn’t been for the intervention of the Athletic Department. My thanks to Bill Gannon and John Villarin for stepping up for us at that time.
The only thing that is really left to say is thank you to all of the leaders and members that have helped to shape the Pep Band into what it is today. Cindy, Al, Val, Ian, Jules, Jim, Laurie, Bobak, Howard, Brady, Uzi, Cory, Doreen, Paul, Jim W., Mike R. (Beaker), Pierre, Dave B., Larry, Mark, Noel, John M., John S., Ramon, Carol, Mark, Irna, Mike L, Ellen, Don, Sig, Joel, Melissa, Dan, Amy, Deepa, Megumi, Kari, Mary, Leticia, Brian S. (Bucket), Brian N., Kevin D., Jeff, Charlie, Aaron, Ryan, Danielle, Karen, Catherine, Kevin N., Rosanne, Susan, Jenny, Brandon (Shadez), Rachel (Mute), Annette (Nut), Barry (Flint), Steve Y., Ben, Paul, Steve B., Steve M., Jen, Dave M., Chris (Bullseye), and all of the other members of the UCSD Pep Band, Bill Gannon, Ken Gross, Judy Sweet of the Athletics Department: Thank you. Without all of your hard work, we wouldn’t be here today.
Last Modified: September 5, 2012 1:12:06 am