Strike Up the (Pep) Band!

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Boxer’s Pep Band Gears Up For Homecoming Weekend With Continued Traditions

A college football game without a pep band is like watching a Marvel movie with the sound turned off—and, at every home, right behind the student section, at the very top of the bleachers, sits the high-energy 20-student Boxer Pep Band. It is the perfect perch: With a great line of sight of the field, clear lines-of-sight to take cues: When to play, when to stop, when to rally the troops, when to celebrate a touchdown. And, they make sure to always hit their cues.

   When Pacific decided to reinstate football in 2010, after a 19-year hiatus, the Pep Band also rode back into action—and, at their helm then and now has been Michael Burch-Pesses, Professor and Director of Bands and Master of the French horn. He has been leading and conducting music programs for 28 years at Pacific University.

   With prior experience as a bandmaster at the US Naval Academy, Burch-Pesses is no stranger to home-town pride, as he hosted home football games there with 30,000 roaring fans—and he talks passionately about Pacific, and makes it evident how much he cares about creating an atmosphere where everyone feels uplifted from their music.

   “The primary role is to add to Boxer spirit, and if you attended last Saturday’s game, we make a lot of noise,” exclaimed Burch-Pesses, referring to the come-from-behind-overtime win on September 17 against Pomona. “We feel like we are a really integral part of what goes on at home football games,” he added.

   The Pep Band is entirely volunteer-based; at any given time, there are around 20 students, many who played in their high school pep bands and wanted to continue that experience. Boxer’s Pep Band is a wide selection of wind instruments—flutes clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, trombones—and, of course, the boom-boom of percussion.

   “This year, we have great instrumentation,” assured Burch-Pesses. “We have a big full sound, our percussion section is small but mighty.”

   A football team is not the only one with a game plan. The pep band has home games down to a science to help motivate the on-field Boxer at every possible moment. The pep band and their book full of tunes keep noise blaring and echoing from the stands. A solidified tradition includes the Boxer fight song whenever the Boxers put points on the board at Hanson Stadium. 

   “We also play in-between plays to cheer the team on,” added Burch Pesses. “Usually when we have the ball and are on offense because we don’t want to cheer the other team on. The band likes to play and make their presence known, but we don’t want to be intrusive, so we don’t play when the ball is moving.”

   Homecoming Weekend is a special weekend, said Burch-Pesses, and alumni often stop by the performing band to say hello and reminisce their days of sitting on the metal bleacher seats playing the fight song.

   “They [alumni] always stop by the band and say hello,” he said. “It is always great to see them; it’s sortof hard for me to believe how quickly time has passed.” He went on, “some of these students I first taught when I came here, 28 years ago, so, to see them after such a long time and to see how they matured and been successful in the world, that’s a great feeling.” — Emily Rutkowski


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