December 16, 2012 in City

Alumni, volunteers join EWU pep band for big game

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Cart Nelson, a 1989 graduate of Eastern Washington University, right, laughs with James Mullenix, second from right, Brady Wickett, center, and band member Nathan Westlund, left, before the football game against Sam Houston State on Saturday at Roos Field in Cheney. Nelson, who is a band director at Rosalia and Tekoa, joined the group with other volunteers to play the duration of the game. “There were a couple rough spots, but overall we sounded fine,” Westlund said after the game.
(Full-size photo)

Percussion rumbled in the distance as members of the Eastern Washington University pep band warmed up Saturday morning.

Drummers honed their inner rhythm to join with the woodwinds and belting brass for the Football Championship Series semifinals against the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

“This is going to be a blast,” EWU band director Patrick Winters said after practice.

At an alumni pregame event, Winters found a chair to stand on. More than 100 alumni and local musicians had joined the band for the day, he told the crowd. The volunteers answered the school’s call to fill seats in the pep band alongside about 60 students.

It’s a new practice at the university to form a volunteer band during the playoffs, and local musicians were ready to dust off their instruments.

Camille Staack-Miller signed up in a heartbeat, ready to relive the college memories of pep band as a flutist even though it’s been about 30 years since she graduated from EWU.

“I haven’t practiced as much as I could have in the past years, but I could still do everything. Anybody can brush up,” Staack-Miller said.

To the tune of the Eagles’ fight song, a sea of Santa hats bobbed to the beat.

Assistant director Luke Brockman walked the band through their performance game plan – three beats, right fist pump. But first: “We’re going to try something a little different and cool – something flashy. We’re going to put our horns up.”

While the musical reunion was fun for alumni to get back into the groove, it was educational for students as well. Nick Bowden, a junior music education student, saw a good networking opportunity.

“I’ve been shaking a lot of hands and meeting a lot of people,” Bowden said.

He couldn’t help but notice everyone was smiling during the performance, even though the Eagles lost the game 45-42.

Staack-Miller wishes for more performance opportunities. The elementary school teacher has been living the musical dream vicariously by starting a ukulele ensemble at Mullan Road Elementary but said she wants more.

“I’d love for Spokane as a community to have a pep band, you know, volunteers who still want to play,” Staack-Miller said. “If I could put one together, I would.”

The energy picked up during Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll (Part 2),” titled “The Hey Song” on their sheet music.

Brockman takes the credit for arranging that piece, along with the choreography.

But thanks to the extra help, there was hardly an inch to budge.

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