May 09, 2016 — Coral Gables, FL — College basketball captivated the nation last March as teams competed to advance to the NCAA national championship. Traveling alongside Miami Hurricanes men and women’s basketball was the Frost Band of the Hour Pep Band, a group of 50 undergraduate student musicians chosen by audition to support University of Miami athletics. Fifty percent of today’s Pep Band are UM music majors who perform for tens of thousands attending ACC Conference and NCAA Championship basketball events aired on national TV.
Led by Frost Professor Jay C. Rees, the Band of the Hour’s distinct and jazz influenced sound resembles that of a studio big band, the result of focused practice and a cutting-edge songbook custom arranged by Rees, whose works are commissioned by collegiate bands nationwide.
In the past two years, the Pep Band has appeared at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and professional arenas in Stanford, CA, Greensboro, NC, Iowa City, IA, Louisville, KY, Providence, R.I., and Washington, D.C.
Six Frost School degree candidates shared their experience traveling as members of this uniquely spirited, yet musically demanding ensemble. Murphy Aucamp, junior (jazz drum set), Emily Guilmette, sophomore (trombone), Philip Hayden, senior (saxophone), Dennis Lejardi, sophomore (tuba), Emma Morris, junior (flute/piccolo), and Kim Morton, sophomore (trombone) represent the Frost Studio Music and Jazz, Instrumental Performance, Music Business, Music Education, and Music Engineering programs.
In Their Own Words…
1. What’s it like traveling to big collegiate sporting events and performing at major arenas?
Murphy: It’s the perfect combination of my favorite things, playing music and watching college sports, getting paid to travel and representing UM. On the road, we not only have to play at an extremely high level, but we have to engage and energize a non-home crowd.
Emily: The atmosphere on these trips is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The arenas are packed with people who invest a lot of time and money into being there.
Philip: Traveling to large events is a great experience because it gives me an opportunity to perform in front of a larger audience than any event on campus.
Dennis: It’s an amazing opportunity as a musician. I’m paid to tour the country, perform for huge crowds, connect with musicians from other colleges, interact with different fan bases, and explore the acoustics of various arenas.
2. How does Pep Band enhance your Frost School studies and student life at UM?
Murphy: Being in athletic band allows me to meet people outside the music school and communicate with people from different fields of study.
Emily: Pep Band forces me to manage my time and prioritize all my work.
Dennis: A key emphasis of the Frost School is on creating and shaping musicians to be increasingly diverse and flexible in styles, technique, performance, and practice. Pep band allows me an opportunity to apply all of these concepts.
Emma: Athletic Band is a huge part of my social and student life at UM. We all have the same goal, to make good music together.
3. How do the performance and travel experiences inform your career goal?
Murphy: My career goal is to be musically versatile. Pep Band teaches me to adapt to different environments and audiences, while playing diverse styles of music outside the jazz vocabulary.
Emily: As a future high school band director, I will be taking my students on trips to perform locally or farther away. Being on UM pep band trips gives me a lot of ideas as to how to organize and run them smoothly.
Phillip: Pep Band allows me to experience venues where major artists perform.
Dennis: As a Music Business major, I’m able to witness first hand the organization and logistics of large-scale events, to analyze every event and draw conclusions as to what was successful and what was not.
Emma: Pep Band is the only opportunity I’ve had to perform for multiple thousands of people at one time. It has given me so much confidence in my abilities as a performer.
4. How does pep band challenge you?
Murphy: The challenge is in the charts we play. As a drummer, Pep Band is a great exercise for control. All charts are adaptations of popular tunes, so how I play them greatly influences the arc of the band’s sound.
Emily: We learn a great deal of music at a high level in a very short period of time. We have to be really focused and efficient, and able to prioritize our practice time.
Dennis: As a classical tubist, pep band allows me to play different styles of music, to work on extended techniques in a creative, functional, and effective manner.
Emma: I’ve learned more about myself as a person and as a musician. I have more patience, respect and understanding for many different kinds of people.
Kim: Having to memorize so many charts and be ready to play them at a moment’s notice helps build stamina and focus.
5. Describe the type of music Professor Rees programs and what it means to you.
Murphy: The music is a conglomeration of rock, jazz and funk, something you would primarily hear in a cover band or cruise ship band. Refining these tunes weekly is something you don’t get to play every day.
Emily: Pep band is the only ensemble at the Frost School that plays this type of music, both fun and crowd-pleasing.
Dennis: Professor Rees often programs music by world-renowned artists, tunes that are timeless, catchy, and simply a blast to play.
6. What makes Pep Band an ensemble worthy of your time?
Murphy: I can make a lot of music over the span of my life, but being in Athletic Band is specific to my 4-year college experience. I value the people, their energy and passion, the opportunity to play relatable music that I wouldn’t get to play otherwise, and the travel experiences as a musician.
Emily: It’s something I enjoy doing, so it’s very easy to schedule schoolwork and practice with band rehearsals and games.
Emma: The feeling of thousands of people in one place with the same high energy is life changing. The friendships I’ve made in the band and the experiences with those friends on trips and during rehearsals are irreplaceable.
Kim: Pep Band is super fun, takes you to a lot of exciting places, and lets you make music with up to 50 of your closest friends!
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