Is it a Marching Band, a Family, or Both?

With a spike from 20 to over 200 members in just 10 years, the University of New Haven’s marching band is one of the fastest growing college marching bands in the country. 

This rapid growth happened under the direction of band director, Jason DeGroff. The marching band continues to grow as its members aim to entertain and pass New Haven pride onto fellow students.

 “With the atmosphere the band creates when playing, it’s hard not to have school spirit,”  DeGroff said. The band attends every home football game, and cheers on the university’s team by playing popular songs in the stands. The band also performs at halftime.

The band’s 2019 show is called “California Dreamin’.” As the band sets up to march, the front ensemble starts the show, playing “Christmas in LA” by Vulfpeck. After the introduction, the visual show starts, which includes hit song “California Dreamin’,” composed as a mashup between the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys, and Sia, followed by “Surfer Girl/California Gurls” by The Beach Boys/Katy Perry, “Wipeout/Misirlou” by Safaris/Hotel California” by the Eagles, “I Love LA” by Randy Newman, and “LA Devotee” by Panic! At the Disco.

When describing the choice of songs, DeGroff said, “This show is going to make people want to get up and dance, cheer, smile and laugh.” With seven songs to perform and an audience to hype up, the band members need dedication and most importantly, practice.

Band practice starts before the academic semester. In mid-August there’s a week of band camp. Each day starts at 9 a.m. and does not end until 10 p.m. The mornings are typically dedicated to learning music and the afternoon and night blocks focus on drills.

Flute section leader Marlee Bobowiec says that the long days prepare the band for the season before the students have to deal with school. 

“Band camp is crucial for the entire band, freshman especially because it helps them to adjust to how our band works and it allows them to build friendships at college a week before the semester even starts,” said Bobwiec.

As the section leader, Bobowiec helps freshmen and upperclassmen flute and piccolo players learn their music, march, and get into the band routine.

As for building teamwork within her section, Boboweic said, “Friendship and teamwork does not have to be forced in the band or our section. After spending all day together for an entire week, it naturally happens between us all.” 

Like the flute section, all instruments in the band have their own section leader.

By the end of the 2019 band camp, the band learned the first two songs and half of the third. With the motivation of DeGroff, associate band director, Dr. Alexander Casimiro, color guard instructor Laura Choquette, and score composer, Keith Murray, the band has all the resources they need to grow as performers. At the end of every rehearsal, DeGroff calls from the stands, “What do the best bands in the world do in the last minutes of practice?” 

The band sticks their fists in the air (a sign he has their attention) and calls back, “Get better!” And that they do. Each week their show improves and their expectations for each competition and performance increase. While the band does not compete, they often attend competitions at local high schools and provide an end-of-show performance.

Along with the football games and high school competitions, the band traveled to Allentown, Penn., for the Collegiate Marching Band Festival on Sept. 29. This large show celebrated well-known college bands. In addition to New Haven, there are bands from UMass Amherst, University of Delaware and other universities.

With the teamwork that marching band requires, marching band can feel like a family. 

The band will perform their show at home football games on Nov. 2 and Nov. 16.