UNH Marching Band Ready for a Super Season

Ashley Winward

The University of New Haven Charger Marching Band just finished a grueling week in the sun preparing for their Fall 2014 season and their show entitled “Steel,” centered around Superman as portrayed in music.

A Charger Marching Band summer practice  (Photo provided by Ashley Winward / Charger Bulletin Photo)
A Charger Marching Band summer practice
(Photo provided by Ashley Winward / Charger Bulletin Photo)

The show will feature Five For Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” Three Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” and Daughtry’s “Waiting For Superman.”

With the band growing in both numbers and talent over the past five years, it is looking to be the best show the fans have seen at Dellacamera Stadium this fall.

Steel was actually an idea brought up by trombone section leader Stephen Shepherd last year, then developed by band director Jason Degroff and Keith Rego.

“I was a little hesitant going into the 2014 marching season with this specific show. I had the initial idea to do this sort of show this past winter, when I heard Daughtry’s “Waiting for Superman” on the radio, and wondered how cool that would be to translate it to the field,” said Shepherd. “I was surprised that I got such an exceedingly positive reaction from Jason when I first emailed him my whole idea, and I was even more taken aback that virtually every band member or fan liked the concept as well.”

Shepherd added that going through band camp and seeing how much the band members like the show is “truly very humbling” and makes him even more excited to see this entire show come to fruition.

With such a knowledgeable staff directing the band, it was no surprise the concept came together so smoothly. Under the direction of Degroff, drum caption head Omi Batan, Color Guard Caption Head Eric Babula and the numerous techs, student teachers and graduate assistants the band staff has nearly a dozen Drum Corps International titles under various groups in the DCI circuit.

Sophomore saxophone Mary Perucci was grateful for the staffs experience and work ethic. “The new staff is making a positive change in the mentality and overall moral of the band,” she said. “Sometimes there are situations that can become frustrating and it is really nice to have staff members who can keep their cool and help us push through and still accomplish what needs to be done.”

The talent doesn’t stop at the staff; the students joining have come with their own super powers as well. The band as a whole is now comprised of about five percent of the UNH student body, representing almost every major on campus. In five years, the band has grown 11 times larger, starting with 20 members and expanding to well over 200 now, making the UNH marching program one of the fastest growing programs in the country.

Experience ranges from drum corps champions to those marching for the first time. The group is a very inclusive bunch, helping each other along the way.

“It’s really overwhelming how large the band is now, and also how large my section is now,” Shepherd said. “This is my first season as a full-fledged section leader in college, and to lead a group of 12 musicians total is exhilarating. I learn just as much from my rank leader and section members as they do from me, if not more, and I think that’s a true testament to how great this band really is.”

While most members come in on their primary instrument, others take the challenge of learning new instruments and trying new things.

Sophomore Marissa Fujimoto is beginning her first season in the pit ensemble, and described her transition from Color Guard to Pit as a “new and exciting experience.”

Band camp itself is a week-long event every year, with 12-hour days, which include working on both the music and marching the show drill.

Afternoon blocks in the hot sun can be hard and staying healthy is imperative to keeping the entire production running.

Regardless of the mental and physical commitment, the members of the UNH marching band look forward to it every year. Chris Jenis, sophomore saxophone remembers his first band camp at UNH but looks forward to what’s to come.

“Well, I enjoyed this year’s band camp way more than last year because I am now a sophomore and knew everyone going in to camp,” Jenis said. “This year’s camp is something I looked forward to since the end of last year and it didn’t disappoint. I hope that this year can be even better than last year and judging by camp it will be.”

Band director Jason Degroff was also pleased with the band’s results in only one short week of coming together.

“The University of New Haven Band Camp was one I will never forget! In over 200 days of camps I have done, this one contained my best day ever and my most fun day ever!” said Degroff. “The band members not only worked hard, they worked smart. This addition to the Charger Marching Band will be one for the ages. Everyone will be proud of the way the Marching Band represents the UNH community. The support had been tremendous and we couldn’t do what we do without it.”

The band will be debuting Steel at the first home game against Westchester Sept. 6, but you can get a sneak peak during rehearsals from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays at Dellacamera.

If you’re interested, they’re still looking for any musicians interested in joining. Any questions can be answered by Jason Degroff or the staff at [email protected]