One of the most distinguishable traditions in American collegiate athletics is having a music ensemble to pump the crowd up.
At Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, the Pep Band, as it is known, is one of the foremost traditions, and with the FISU World University Games in town, they spared no expense.
The band played at Team USA hockey games held at the institution’s Cheel Arena throughout the Lake Placid 2023 tournament.
The origin of the pep band is muddy at best. The custom of having musical accompaniment to sport and entertainment events dates back to antiquity, when the Greeks played music at the ancient Olympics to honor the goddess Adelphi. However, the term’s etymology is known and is dated around the late 19th and early 20th century. Pep is short for “pepper,” a reference to the strong taste the condiment has.
Joe DeSena is the president of the band association. He convokes the group of roughly 65 student musicians to make noise and blast out popular tunes to each ice hockey match.
“Well, I will tell you it is a lot of emails. I check my inbox almost hourly. But, you know, I had some really great predecessors who put a lot of time into making my time with the band as enjoyable as it could be for me. So, I want to do the same for these kids, and hopefully somebody will take my place and do the same.”
Clarkson has a deep-rooted tradition in ice hockey. Having appeared in the NCAA men’s tournament 22 times, the Golden Knights are a hometown favorite with the people of Potsdam. Thirty former players have graduated to the National Hockey League, and six have represented the United States at the Olympic Games. Caroline Moreau is a fourth-year civil engineering student. She plays the flute in the ensemble, and her favourite band tradition is perhaps the kindest form of sabotage.
“One of our favorite things to do is after both teams come out on the ice, we’ll come down and have a sign. Then, we try to get the opposing team to give us high fives to distract them during their warmups.” Eric LaFerriere is in his second year of studying aerospace and mechanical engineering. Despite his school’s hosting of the top university athletes in the world, he prefers to showcase the old tradition instead of trying something new.
“We like to keep a lot of it the same. I guess instead of chanting ‘Let’s Go Tech’, we gotta figure out what else we can yell (chuckle) so, for these teams from all over.”
Written by Christopher Benítez Cuartas, FISU Young Reporter