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College Launches Pep Band

Fans may see a pep band at NC Wesleyan hoops games as soon as this season.

The college has hired Tony Sawyer, an accomplished musician and band director, to form a pep band and, sometime in the future, a marching band to entertain at the school’s football games and other events.

Sawyer, a percussionist with a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University, came to Wesleyan after 10 years as director of bands at Elon University. In previous positions, he led bands at State University of West Georgia and taught percussion at Clayton State University in Georgia. He has performed with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and the Rialto Symphony Orchestra, among other ensembles.

The Decree conducted a recent email interview with Sawyer.

Q: Describe the bands that you intend to establish at NCWC.

A: My charge is to start by building a pep band here at Wesleyan. The plan is for other bands to follow in the future, like a marching band. It is my hope that we can build interest enough to have band as a regular part of on-campus spirit, art and entertainment.

Q: I think most readers are familiar with a marching band. But tell us the purpose and makeup of a pep band. How soon will the NCWC pep band be in place?

A: A college pep band is usually a subset of a college marching band, but for schools that do not have marching band it can be their main spirit band. A pep band usually consists of woodwinds, brass, and percussion like a marching band, but also might include some non-marching band instruments like drum set, electric guitar, bass guitar, and electronic keyboards. I want to have a small pep band established sometime in the coming months. At this time, I’m working to make purchases that will allow the band to have equipment, uniforms, music and other necessary items. It will take time to gather these resources, of course. Then we’ll need time to meet as a group to work on music to perform in public. So, it’ll take a little time to get everything in place, to be ready to play here on campus. But we might be able to play during at least some of basketball season. We hope to be as quick as possible, as we know that the campus is excited to see a new pep band here.

Q: What progress have you made so far with the marching band?

A: First, we’re only working on a pep band at this time. Of course, everyone would like to see a marching band, and we hope that might be possible in the future. A marching band is a type of band that takes many more resources in terms of number of members and equipment, along with the number of rehearsals per week necessary to make it work properly. If we can build a strong pep band, that would be great. If that later translates into building a marching band, I think that would be exciting.

Q: Does NCWC offer instruments for all students, or do students use their own?

A: Some students have their own instruments and some do not. We would not want to discourage participation for need of an instrument, so the program will be purchasing some needed instruments to help make sure more students can participate. This will be a slow process over the next few years. It is commonplace that students still own their instruments that they used in their high school programs. If a student is in need of a borrowed instrument, we will try to provide it at no extra cost, if at all possible.

Q: In recent years, a generous gift permitted the college to offer scholarships vocal music. Are there plans to offer scholarships for you instrumentalists?

A: At this time there are no plans to offer scholarships as part of the pep band program. There might be opportunities for future changes in this, but for now there are no scholarships offered as part of the band program.

Q: What are you impressions so far about the quality of Wesleyan’s musicians?

A: I think we’ll have a very good group of students, faculty and staff that will provide a very positive and exciting band program for the campus. At this point I haven’t seen or heard many of our members play, as I’m still gathering resources to allow us to start. But I’ve had contact with many interested students, faculty and staff, who are very enthusiastic about starting band here at Wesleyan. That will translate into a really good group.

Q: As part of your regular duties, will you be recruiting high school students for the bands? What areas will you cover?

A: Recruiting takes on many different forms for me as a band director. It’ll require recruitment of on-campus band students, faculty and staff, off-campus high school students. I’ll also to look to other areas such as local community colleges and transfer students. I’ll be maintaining a high profile with all these groups, working to find ways to be in contact about our band program.

Q: How difficult will it be to recruit prospective musicians to a college that lacks a music major? How do you overcome an obstacle like that? What’s your sales pitch?

A: Actually, most American colleges rely heavily on students who are not music majors for their band memberships. If you have a major in music, you might have a core group of majors that help with your bands. But these bands are made up almost entirely of non-music majors. Certainly a music department, and a major in music, would help bolster more music participation on camp