Many students may have seen prefrosh flooding Yale’s campus over the past few days, but members of the Yale Precision Marching Band saw more than just prefrosh: They saw future Yale sports fans.
On Tuesday night, students could hear “All the Single Ladies” booming off the arches of Sterling Memorial Library’s Gothic foyer. Earlier that day, the YPMB had already ambushed Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel’s welcome address to the prefrosh with a rousing rendition of “Bulldog” and played at the prefrosh extravaganza.
These are just several ways in which the YPMB keeps itself busy in the offseason. Like the sports it supports here at Yale, the band also operates on an athletic schedule of sorts, performing at games and practices in the fall and winter, and engaging in active recruiting in the current offseason.
Primarily responsible for spirit and entertainment at athletics events such as football, basketball and hockey games, the YPMB calls itself an attack organization. The group also has a history of ransacking chess tournaments and mobbing debates.
Even after a long day of raising the YPMB’s profile among what will hopefully be the next generation of Yale Athletics supporters, YPMB drum major Kate Kraft ’10 said just because it was 10 p.m. on a weekday night was no reason for silence.
“We just had a band and were just walking around campus,” said Kraft, a staff photographer for the News. “That was attack banding — we do that for kicks.”
Earlier this semester, the group sprung out of Phelps Gate to greet the Chinese delegation visiting campus.
“We arrived there and we were a large band full of instruments,” Elliot Eaton ’11 said. “It was funny when the delegation actually came. We opened with ‘Bulldog’ and played a couple of songs that were just loud and rocking. They were a little confused, but they enjoyed it.”
He added, “The ambassador liaisons said they talked about it during the rest of the day.”
While this week’s prefrosh had the chance to witness this hit-and-run style, the YPMB is also an old favorite at athletic events. As some of the strongest supporters of Yale Athletics, their goal is to play at as many games as possible during the season. Sometimes, they even divide the group in two to play simultaneously at both the Whale and Payne Whitney Gymnasium.
At the beginning of this past hockey season, members of the YPMB were some of the first fans who loyally began to follow the team whose successes came to sweep the school.
But occasionally the Athletics Department tries to curb the band’s special brand of humor. Each piece in the YPMB repertoire, which is all student-arranged, is given a suggestive pseudonym that is written in on a white board. Because these large-lettered titles are then brandished for the whole crowd to see, the Athletics Department occasionally tries to step in to preserve the family atmosphere, Kraft said.
For instance, “Lets play Herpes!” is Kraft’s call to play the song “There’s always something there to remind me.” Other pieces in the YPMB’s repertoire include “Octopus Orgasm” (for “Feel Good Inc.”) and “Got MILF?” (for “Stacy’s Mom”).
Sometimes the humor isn’t always welcome. Kraft said she believes the band is forever banned from West Point because of a communal mooning of the stands in the past.
While the YPMB is most active during fall and winter sports seasons, the band’s activities are far from over even after the extended hockey season ended.
With traditions such as Dead Week and the scavenger hunt, the group transitions from celebrating athletics to celebrating itself.
One such example is the YPMB’s scavenger hunt, which finished last weekend and involved a week-long hunt for random items. This list included University President Richard Levin’s tie, Provost Peter Salovey’s socks, the Whale and a work published in the News.
Members said they were surprised by the number of items and tasks they were able to complete, given the nature of the list.
“The worse thing they can say is no,” Allison Altman ’12. “Fortunately the Yale community ended up being really supportive of our unique requests.”
Tapping into the most visible icon of Yale Athletics, one group even brought Handsome Dan on a leash to the hunt’s point tally.
Such is the life of the band, and members said they hope their spirit would help draw in this week’s visiting prefrosh.
“Anyone can play and do anything,” Kraft said. “There are no skills requirements. Run around and carry something. Pretend to play something. Any of the section leaders would be happy to teach you to play.”
When Kraft first joined, she was trained as a trumpet player, but decided to join the drum line. Within six months, she was section leader. While she, like many of the other instrumentalists, are also members of the more traditional Yale Concert Band, many of the most dedicated YPMB members don’t even play instruments.
“The squids are the section of people who don’t necessarily play instruments,” Eaton said. “They are responsible for creating the props we use in the halftime show such as the 30-foot dinosaur for the Harvard-Yale game last year. They also take up cymbals and cowbells and make lots of noise.”
Along with the squids and more traditional marching sections, the YPMB has a strong guitar section and has been home to electric guitars and bagpipes.
“The lead guitarist actually ridged up a backpack for his amp, so he can play while walking,” Kraft said.
As the YPMB welcomed potential future members with a midnight rehearsal this week, they were sure to emphasize the group’s welcoming atmosphere. Bringing instruments out of the closets, they invited the prefrosh to sit down, try the music and consider joining a group of some of the most enthusiastic supporters of Yale Athletics.
“We hooked them up with instruments right away,” Kraft said.
While this week’s recruitment was geared toward the incoming freshmen and the next generation of Yale Athletics fans, both Elliot and Kraft make it clear that anyone can sign up at any time.
“Our philosophy is a lot different than that of other groups,” Eaton said. “Where most groups have a big recruitment drive in the fall, our band is always willing to bring more people in.”
The YPMB was temporarily suspended in November after its halftime show at The Game in Cambridge, Mass., drew the ire of Yale administrators because of props that were deemed offensive. Kraft said the suspension, which was lifted in December, has not affected the YPMB’s spirit. However, Kraft said the band will now have better communication regarding props among members of the band and that she, as drum major, will review all materials before performances.