Band to clean up its act

Members of the YPMB hoist a missile prop during The Game last year at Harvard Stadium.
Members of the YPMB hoist a missile prop during The Game last year at Harvard Stadium. Photo by Zoe Gorman.

While the football team’s season ends Saturday, the Yale Precision Marching Band is working to make sure its own does not.

After last year’s Game, Thomas Duffy, the director of Yale bands, suspended the YPMB for using a model of the Berlin wall with profane graffiti in the band’s half-time show. But the YPMB is planning to exercise caution in this year’s performance, three band members said.

“I think last year was a real anomaly,” said Duffy, who reads the band’s halftime script every year. “There’s not going to be a problem this year. I’m not taking any precautions.”

Although none of the three band members interviewed revealed details about this year’s show, which is traditionally kept secret until The Game, they said they were not concerned about a repeat of last year’s suspension because they will be more careful to keep the show PG.

The writing process began Sunday, head scriptwriter Jackie Bruleigh ’11 said.

The YPMB has a system to ensure that shows are appropriate, Bruleigh said: A team of band members writes the script, and Duffy and band officers read the script before the performance. Bruleigh said the band will continue to rely on this system this year.

“We’re just trying to look forward and stay positive,” said Susan Johns ’10, the YPMB manager. “I think we have everything under control, and the athletics department and our director all have faith in us.”

Rob Golan-Vilella ’10, last year’s head scriptwriter, said his role included leading a group of eight to 10 regular scriptwriters who selected the songs for each game and composed the dialogue to be read from the press box during halftime. Last year’s show depicted a Cold War between “communist” Harvard and “capitalist” Yale.

Rosa Li ’09, last year’s drum major, said in an interview Sunday that although she was in the band room the entire time the props were being made last year, she could not keep tabs on all of the activity and so she did not monitor the offending prop.

Li said that although the suspension was not something the band took lightly, it did not affect the actual YPMB practice time. The suspension occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday, when most band members were not on campus. The YPMB had a full winter season, Li said, performing at basketball and hockey games throughout.

“I’m excited for [this year’s show]” Li said, “I think after last year I trust that this year’s drum major, who’s doing a great job, will learn from my mistake and be more careful.”

The current drum major, Kate Kraft ’10, said she is excited for the upcoming show and that she is helping to write the script.

In recent years, Bruleigh said, most suspensions have been for individual members involved in such antics as dropping their pants on the field.


  • Mike

    This is the band that once formed a coathanger and played “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby.”

  • Old Blue ’73

    The trouble with having a university employee “approve” the scripts is that he will inevitably err on the side of caution and censor anything risque/risky. If Duffy just lets them go, he can retrospectively disown the offensive and scold the band afterwards. IMO, the suspension was an overreaction.

  • Sam

    The YPMB once stole my beer.

  • ’98

    I excuse the generally unfunny and sophomoric antics of the YPMB on the ground that most of them are indeed Sophomores … or Freshmen.

  • yale 11

    YPMB = the worst part about Yale

  • H2

    I don’t believe the band ever formed a coathanger and played “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby.” I think that’s a myth. Even the band’s most “shocking” acts in the old days were pretty mild, really, mostly amounting to things like forming vaguely phallic objects, dropping pants (to reveal diapers underneath), etc.

  • dsimon

    Princeton claims to have done the coathanger halftime v. Yale in 1965.

    In any case, I hope the YPMB keeps up the tradition of considering the season a failure unless it receives at least one letter of complaint from a disgruntled alum.

  • H2

    Thanks, dsimon. Wow, those Princeton shows from 1965 were pretty raunchy. I was in the YPMB in the late 70’s, and things weren’t that raw. Juvenile, yes. The big joke was making objects like “Fidel Castro’s cigar,” or a rocket.


    I have friends in the YPMB and I love them dearly, but the YPMB always makes me realize that Yalies have no shame and no limits.

  • dsimon

    “the YPMB always makes me realize that Yalies have no shame and no limits.”

    Well, somebody has to!

    My first year in the YPMB was 1981, and the Ivy presidents had just had a meeting over the summer where they all agreed to tell their bands that they had to tone down (so to speak) their acts. So I guess the single entendres were still sufficient to have them worried about alumni donations.

    But I was told that the political stuff got the band more letters than the sexual stuff. And from my experience attending the script sessions, it’s really hard to come up with seven minutes of really funny material.

    My favorite musical selection remains from the ’81 Parents Weekend show when we did a segment on Oedipus and played “I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad,” then segued into “I Only Have Eyes For You.”