Sept. 6, 2007 — University of Virginia football fans are now familiar with the power and professionalism of the Cavalier Marching Band. With its high energy and dazzling performance routines, the band sets the stage for the football team and engages the fans.
At the center of that powerhouse is the 30-member drum line, which enters the field at the start of the game ahead of the other band members and even the team. "The drum line is the heart and heartbeat of the band. It sets the mood and tempo that all the other instruments follow," said William Pease, U.Va. director of bands.
Just three years after making its public debut at Scott Stadium, people are beginning to pick up on that beat. Recently, Yamaha Corporation of North America, one of the leading purveyors of band products, chose the Cavalier drum line to feature in print advertising targeted at Virginia high schools.
The band was started in 2003 with a gift from longtime University friends and benefactors Carl and Hunter Smith. Pease joined U.Va. at that time and built the band from scratch. He said he set out to create the best band possible "in the U.Va. tradition" and began fulfilling that goal by choosing top-of-the line instruments for all the musicians. He outfitted the entire band with equipment from Yamaha.
"I wanted to get the best for our students," Pease said.
The students have been Pease's focus from the start, and he encourages them to take ownership of the band. It is made up of about 230 members, comprised of brass, woodwind and marching percussion instrumentalists as well as color guard and twirlers, who perform at home football games. A smaller volunteer contingent performs at several nearby away games and other sports events around Grounds. About 60 members also hold leadership roles including section leaders, drill instructors, uniform staff and Web master.
"Mr. Pease is very, very adamant about promoting student leadership and having us really make it our own band," said fourth-year economics and bioethics student Benjamin Cooper, who has been with the band since his arrival at U.Va. and this year is the drum line captain. In that role, he has composed music and choreographed pieces for the drum line.
The amazing thing is that all the band members are non-music majors, Pease said. "The level of musicianship is tremendous. They push me to be more creative."
The students arrive in August, before classes begin, to attend a nine-day band camp. They practice at least twice weekly during the season and additional times during weeks when there is a home game. The group not only works together, they bond and become fast friends.
"The band's meant the world to me because before I came here I didn't know a single person," said fourth-year mathematics and philosophy major Jodi Meyers. "Before the school year even started, I had a solid group of friends and I'm still best friends with those same people to this very day."
Yamaha's interest in the band began in the spring, when a regional representative visited a rehearsal. Recognizing the Cavalier Marching Band's professionalism and musicianship, Pease said, led to the selection of the band to represent Yamaha in an ad campaign directed at high schools throughout the state.
"Yamaha is excited to have been chosen by the University of Virginia Cavalier Marching Band as their drum line of choice," Scott Slocum, district manager for Yamaha Corporation of America, said.
In turn, "we recognize the band’s influence throughout the state of Virginia and beyond, and have therefore added them to our national ad campaign,” Slocum said. “This ad campaign proudly showcases the top college marching bands in Division I playing Yamaha [instruments] and is targeted directly at the high school markets they influence."
Second-year student Jason James, who is majoring in government with a minor in African-American studies, shares the pride of his fellow drum line members. "It's an amazing honor. … It's just a great way to represent the University on a large-scale band level," James said.
The band will hold a public dress rehearsal on Carr's Field on Friday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m. They will then proceed to the Downtown Mall for the annual "Paint the Town Orange" celebration heralding the first home football game against Duke, with kickoff Saturday at noon.