Franklin Pierce University starting college’s first marching band

  • Current pep band members, Ryan O’Connell (left) and Devin Gallagher (right). —Andrew Cunningham/FPU

  • Current pep band members, Jack Hellman (left) and Bree Abruzzese (right). —Andrew Cunningham/FPU

  • Current pep band member Tyler Savage. —Andrew Cunningham/FPU

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/17/2021 1:27:01 PM

Franklin Pierce University is starting its very first marching band, in the hopes of being ready to perform for the fall 2022 sports season. 

“I’m telling the students that this is their chance to be a part of the first-ever marching band at Franklin Pierce,” said George Robinson, the current director of the school’s pep band and future leader of the marching band in his newly created position of director of athletic bands. “I’m hoping that they’ll be able to then look back on that and say, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember, I was one of the first ones.’”

The idea of creating a marching band first formed when the school started its football team in 2019, according to music professor Lou Bunk, who helped drive the formation of the marching band. 

“When we started a football team, the athletic director came to me and asked if we could have music at the games,” he said. They decided to form the pep band at the time – pep bands are made up of a smaller group of students, about 10.

“And it went really well,” Bunk said. “As that sort of progressed, we went back to this idea of a marching band.”

Despite the university’s small size, he said they believe they could make a marching band work well and build on the “small but mighty” pep band’s success.

The idea has already seen excitement from students, according to Robinson, including students who are already part of the pep band.

“I have a few students in my pep band that really liked being in marching band when they were in high school,” Robinson said. “So now that there is a marching band coming, I’ve had a few people telling me how excited they are.”

The first order of business is recruitment, so Robinson is focused primarily on stoking this excitement and finding more musicians.

“One of our main objectives is to bring more people, more musicians, onto campus,” he said.

Robinson has already exchanged emails with incoming freshmen, incoming transfer students, and current Franklin Pierce students about joining. There is an application is online, he said, and involves students recording themselves playing.  He also plans to reach out to high school band directors across New England and schedule times to go and speak about the band.

Robinson is also planning ahead to potentially starting rehearsals in the spring, if recruitment goes well. He said that he’ll be writing music and designing performances, as well.

“We’re just full steam ahead,” Robinson said. “I’m the type of person that does better when I’m busy, so I don’t mind it.”

The marching band will look a little different than those of some other schools, according to Robinson. He said this might mean leaning more toward popular music that audiences and teams will recognize, as well as “cooler” uniforms compared to traditional marching band uniforms.

“We’re not going to take ourselves too seriously,” Robinson said. “We’ll take our music seriously, and we’re going to have a great time, and I’m just so excited.”

These differences will be representative of the school’s differences from others, Bunk said.

“Considering our size as a small liberal arts college, I think that’s going to make it very unique,” he said. It will be smaller, for one – they’re hoping for 15 to 20 this year, and ideally up to 50, as opposed to a traditional 150 to 200 at a larger school.

“It’s going to have a different feel, and I think that feel is really going to match the feel of Franklin Pierce,” Bunk said. “Rather than them fitting into the model of a marching band, we think that a marching band is going to fit into the model of Franklin Pierce.”

Also representative of the school, Bunk said, is the spirit of collaboration going into this endeavor, in this case between academics, the music program and the athletics department. Anybody on campus is welcome to join if they can play an instrument, regardless of major. The same goes for a scholarship that has already been set up for the marching band, the only requirement for which is participation in the band. 

“It sort of speaks to the open nature and cross-campus nature of this endeavor,” Bunk said. 

The future of the program, Robinson said, is hopefully bright. While he’s mostly focusing on getting a band together for the fall sports season, he sees the potential to do far more. 

“I see the marching band as an opportunity to be sort of an ambassador for the Monadnock region,” he said. This includes reaching out to local bands at schools and participating on town parades across the region. 

“If we can get enough interested students, and if this all works out the way we feel it’s going to, then we could be talking about this for a while,” he said. 

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