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The Penn Band performs at the Palestra during the men's basketball game against Towson on Nov. 13.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

People go to basketball games for different reasons: the food, the players, the actual game; but others go solely to hear the sweet sounds of the brass trumpet and the drums playing “Timber” for the 12th time that year. 

If you could name one thing that Penn Band does better than anyone, it’s stand out. You know you’ve seen a member of the Band when a flash of red-and-blue stripes whisks past you on Locust and you know you should probably stand clear before you feel just how heavy a snare drum is.

Penn Band is a staple at every basketball game on and off campus, both because it’s a requirement and because they actually enjoy watching the games. 

“Basketball is a fun sport,” Penn Band secretary Emily Marston said. “It's a much quicker pace, so the band gets to play more often, which is also really fun for us. It really feels like we have a direct impact on the game, especially if there's usually a smaller crowd. It's usually just the band, and we are loud and we are present, and we are supporting our team.”

How do you even join Penn Band, though? Apparently, it’s not as hard as you would think. The special thing about the Band is that it’s a club for anyone and everyone. 

“Penn Band is one of the most special performing arts groups on campus, because we like to tell people when we're recruiting that we really accept anyone,” senior Anna Do, president of Penn Band, said. “Anyone: whether or not you can play an instrument well, or if you just want to learn an instrument. You want to spin a flag. You want to just start out by playing percussion instruments, and of course, because of the varying degrees of musical skill, it takes a lot of effort to really put that together.”

One of the most notable things about the Penn Band is the different types of people you can find that’s not limited by racial and ethnical identities, school, school year, or anything else. It boasts a strong community for anyone in search of one. 

“When I came into Penn I definitely did not feel welcomed in this community,” treasurer Gabrielle Bioteau said. “But when I walked through the band doors, immediately I was accepted, and I was a part of the Penn Band family.”

For vice president of the Band, Kara Murphy, the energy was unmatched anywhere else and contributed to her positive experience. 

“I think it raised my confidence as a person, because I can be whoever I want to be in the band, because I'm surrounded by a whole bunch of people who are being themselves and being energetic,” Murphy said. “And we also obviously bring the energy to the games, but even just to hype each other up.”

Once you’re in and you’re able to bond with others in the Band, the gloves come off (unless you’re in Color Guard, in which case the gloves stay on), and you begin training in weekly rehearsals. If you’re lacking in the talent department, there’s always someone to teach you anything you want to learn. When it comes to the song selection, it's all up to the drum majors to choose from, and they get inspiration from many sources.

“We have a rep that we create every single year,” drum major Sarah Oburu said. “Reps are short for repertoire [which] is just a set of 40-60 songs that accurately reflect who we are as a band and what we embody [which is] bleeding all things Red and Blue. Songs can range from traditional Penn songs like Fight on and Cheer Pennsylvania, but also it includes pop songs like ‘Timber’, ‘The Final Countdown’, and ‘Gonna Fly Now,’ which is the Rocky theme.”

When you’re finally settled in the Band, that’s when all the fun begins. Being in Penn Band is almost like working in a hospital: for any event that’s happening on campus, you have to be ready to act fast, gather your instruments, and be prepared for any changes.

Penn Band is much more than their music; they’re a group of people who try to help Penn students experience Penn to the fullest, with their mission being to spread as much joy as they can. 

“[It's] so much bigger than ourselves,” drum major Amanda Palamar said. “And it's so special to be part of a group that's so involved with all things Red and Blue. We're at every single event from NSO to commencement and we're there for every single moment of your Penn journey.”