SAU Buzz

“Oh when the Bees go marching in”

by Becca Herrmann
Posted on Sep 21, 2017

Before 2016, when you attended a football game or any athletic event at Lee Lohman the atmosphere was pretty plain. But not anymore.

The Fight Bee Marching Band began in fall of 2016, playing at football, basketball, and volleyball games. There isn’t much history of pep bands or marching bands in St. Ambrose’s past, so this is new territory for everyone involved.

The decision to start a marching band was quickly accepted by many students, and within the first year they had 33 members.

“When I heard they were starting a marching band I immediately wanted to be a part of it,” junior trombone player Collin Leddy said.

“The job description was to start a marching band program from scratch,” two year coach and band director Megan Cooney said. “If there’s anything I know how to do it’s how to teach a marching band.”

A percussionist herself, Cooney brought her nine years of experience teaching bands to St. Ambrose. But, with no other staff to help her the prospect of forming the band seemed daunting. So, she developed a student led infrastructure, that was voted on by members, to help her with the workload.

“It’s pretty common in collegiate marching bands,” Cooney says. “But, for us it was out of sheer necessity.”

It’s based on a hierarchy with Cooney at the top as director. Below her is the band counsel, which functions as an executive board. This includes president, TJ Schuber; secretary, Madie Sherwood; treasurer, Gradin Schroeder; equipment manager, Liz Lange; uniform manager, Jenna Coe; event coordinator, Dinah Chavez; and a social chair, Hannah Oliver.

“Each position takes a small portion of my administrative tasks,” Cooney said. “I’m able to delegate to them, giving me more time for other things like communicating with potential recruits.”

The next tier includes the drum majors, Gabby Bauer and Sarrah Hammond. Then comes the field staff, who help set up the drills from the ground while Cooney directs from a bird’s eye view. That includes Ethan Parchert, TJ Schuber, Hannah Oliver, and Madie Sherwood. Beyond this there is a Student Leadership Team made up of member volunteers. They help with tasks like getting food for the band to eat during football games and filling water jugs.

There are also two work-study positions. Liz Lange is the music librarian, and she makes sure everyone has the music they need. Natalie Jones is in charge of media and marketing, so she takes pictures, conducts interviews for spotlights, Snapchats for recruits to see, and live streams games and performances.

“I knew nothing about band when I joined,” Jones said. “The band has grown so much since fall of 2016. I look forward to seeing what the band becomes.”

Jones is excited about the future because there a lot of big plans on the horizon for the Fighting Bee Band. Originally scheduled to start marching in 2018, they have already begun doing pre-game performances, which has never happened in the history of St. Ambrose. Next year they will implement a halftime show at football games, making them a full-fledged marching band.

“The Midwest is a hub for high school marching bands,” Cooney said. “The students here have already been a part of really good programs, and they just know what they’re doing.”

Even though the band is developing at a faster pace than it was supposed to, there are still kinks to work out on the logistics side. The group is learning something each game and each practice.

“What’s been really tricky for the students and myself is to establish a system for a band that’s growing and excelling faster than we’re necessarily ready to do,” Cooney said.

Another tricky part has been the leadership of the group. Since the program is only two years old, most of the members are freshmen and sophomores. There’s no fourth-year seniors who are seasoned veterans telling people what to do. But the new people are pushing the veterans to do better.

“There’s more new members than old members,” Cooney says. “Which is really great but also very interesting because now the band is twice its size. But it’s mostly new members who are freshman which comes with a lot of growing pains.”

However, they continue to work hard. The event that they’re most looking forward to now is the homecoming game. They will debut their new uniforms that should be coming in this week and a new performance to go along with them. The uniforms are a big part of any marching band.

“I always say that the uniforms are their superman outfits,” Cooney says with a smirk. “Because nobody can tell who you are in your uniform, at least that’s the goal. They just know that you’re badass because you’re playing music everybody loves and you’re doing something in unison. There’s something impressive about it. They even have capes on their uniforms.”

After homecoming and football season is over, the band looks forward to basketball season, where they will perform at men’s and women’s games. But they’re not newcomers to Lee Lohman, as they have also been performing at volleyball games throughout the fall. The blue and white pep bands, who each have equal ability, divide and conquer to get under the skin of the opposing team.

“I have some coaches asking us to play for sports that I’ve never seen a marching band play at, like lacrosse,” Cooney said. “The players, all the time, go up to band members and thank them for playing.”

The future also looks bright for the numbers of the group. There are 38 new members this year in addition to the “founding fathers,” tas the original band members dubbed themselves. And part of Cooney’s job is to recruit 30-35 new members per year, with a capacity of about 100-120 members after the fourth year of the band’s existence.

“I’m looking forward to how many students that this program will attract,” Leddy said. “And I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.”

There’s even more to look forward to for these future Fighting Bee Band members. Cooney is currently planning spring tours to try and recruit other high schoolers. Last year a brass quintet went to 10 schools in 3 days, while also enjoying some of the unique music experiences that Chicago offers. She might start applying to play at Quad Cities Mallards and Bandits games to give the rest of the area a chance to listen to the newly formed band. She also has a lot of bigger plans on her mind to attract even more new members, so stay tuned.

“I want to make sure that our members know we’re really, really proud of them,” Cooney said. “We really appreciate them. Without really going out of their way they’re kicking butt and taking names.”

The Fighting Bee Band is open for anyone to join no matter what major, and offers the same scholarships to members of all majors. They provide all instruments and uniforms, so having your own instrument is not necessary. If you are interested in joining, email Cooney at CooneyMegan@sau.edu.