For 115 years, the band has consistently brought team spirit to games and celebrations. Regardless of the outcome for the football team, no matter the weather, the band is always there.
“Even in past years when the football team wasn’t projected to be great and the stands were almost empty, fans knew that Ralphie was gonna run, the cheerleaders were going to cheer, and the band was going to be in full throttle from beginning to end,” John Davis, dean of the College of Music said.
Just like any other year, the 230 band members spend hours in rehearsals, bringing the energy to performances at the Pearl Street Stampede, home games, watch parties and away games.
But this year, they have noticed the ‘Prime Effect’ on the crowd.
“It’s heightening our presence on campus and in the community,” director Matthew Dockendorf said. “You can feel the energy even 15 to 20 minutes before we get ready to perform — there are more people, they’re more excited, they’re wearing Buffs gear and wanting to interact with the band.”
Earlier this year, Sanders met with directors of the band, color dance and cheer teams to plan how the ensembles would introduce the football team as they ran onto the field at home games.
“At HBCUs, it’s kind of traditional that the bands kind of coincide,” Sanders said. “I know it’s a difference, but it don’t have to be. We like one big happy family.”
He asked if the band could play his theme song, “Halftime” by the Ying Yang Twins, which is played in the locker room as Sanders gives the players a pregame speech.
“It would be taken to a whole new level when the band is able to execute it, and that’s going to be really really good. Really good,” Sanders said. “When they hear that, they know we coming.”
Now, the band plays the song at every game as a new tradition.
Dockendorf said the band takes pride in tradition and feeds off it.
“We pride ourselves on being the tradition, heartbeat, spirit and pride of the university,” he said. “When the student section starts jumping up and down when we play a certain tune, that energizes them and gets them ready for the next 10-15 minutes.”
He said excitement around the football team has impacted not only the crowd, but the band’s performance.
“There’s a heightened interest in what the football team does, and I think that elevates our performance as well,” Dockendorf said.
Ryan Flat is a drum major in the band, conducting the band from a podium in the front and providing the ensemble with a central beat to follow. He has been in the band for four years and said he has noticed a difference this year.
“There’s definitely been a big change and I think part of it, a big part of it, is just the energy,” Flat said. “It’s just so much fun to play for sold-out stadiums at every game.”
Saturday, the band will be there to bring live music to the homecoming game as the Buffs face the Oregon State Beavers.
Tickets for the game are sold out, but fans can see the band at the Pearl Street Stampede at 7 p.m. on Friday night, or at the Buff Walk on Franklin Field near the stadium at 5:45 p.m. Saturday, or as the band marches to the stadium from Farrand Field at 7 p.m. Saturday.