Pep Band is full of school spirit

Ames High students look forward to warming up every Friday night at home varsity basketball games. The proximity to the court and the fast-paced nature of the game make it a rousing experience for basketball fans and novices alike. Although the boys’ and girls’ teams take center stage at every home game, the Little Cyclones have a supporting cast of 65 students–the Ames High Pep Band. Pep Band plays during the halftimes of the girls’ and boys’ games and between the two games while the boys’ team warms up. Unlike marching band, which is a required part of the band curriculum complete with uniforms and sometimes complex routines, pep band is voluntary and does not require its members to move around the gym during halftime. Band director Chris Ewan said students are expected to audition for pep band since fewer members are needed to entertain basketball fans in the gym. “We do an audition process,” Ewan said. “The vast majority of students who want to join are admitted. It’s a lot more competitive for the woodwind players because we don’t need a lot of saxophones, flutes, and clarinets.” Senior and sousaphone player Joel Uhlmeyer, who was in marching band his freshman and sophomore years, said he prefers pep band to marching band. “I think it’s a lot better than marching band,” Uhlmeyer said. “It’s just marching band without the marching.” Ewan pointed out other key differences between the two ensembles. While marching band tries to include popular songs in addition to its traditional marching repertoire, pep band’s song book is entirely comprised of Top 40 hits. “A lot of the music we use in pep band are tunes we carry over from year to year or pop tunes from the current Top 40,” Ewan said. “The music we play in marching band generally isn’t transferable to pep band. A lot of the pep band tunes are recognized by the audience.” Although Ewan picks the 40 songs that make up pep band’s entire seasonal repertoire, the students are given some freedom to choose songs toward the end of the winter. “We’ve got a book of songs to play,” Ewan said. “The students have to know all 40 songs in the book and we choose from those before each game. Over the course of a season we might play each song three to four times. Towards the end of the season I’ll give the students a choice of which songs to play, but early in the season I’m in charge of selecting. We don’t know all the songs right now.” These songs include crowd favorites such as “Party Rock Anthem” and “Raise Your Glass” and older songs that are popular today. Junior and mellophone section member Zeynab Ghandour said she likes playing loudly at games. “‘Hey Baby’ is the best because we get to sing it really loudly,” Ghandour said. Even though pep band plays an important role in entertaining the basketball fans when the teams are off the court, Uhlmeyer and Ghandour agreed that the band members sometimes feel out-of-place on game night. “[The band and the teams] don’t talk at all,” Uhlmeyer said. “They probably enjoy having us there, but they’re never on the court when we’re playing since it’s during halftime.” Ghandour added, “Sometimes I feel like we’re not supposed to be there. It feels like we’re in the corner where they don’t notice us and don’t always want us.” Despite these grievances, both Ghandour and Uhlmeyer said they enjoyed the basketball game atmosphere and being able to watch the teams free of charge. Ewan said his only goal for the season is to support the basketball team while having fun as a group. “I want the kids to have a good time and entertain the crowd.”