TikTok, Among Us and trivia nights: How the Yale Precision Marching Band is staying energized this fall
Instead of actively practicing with instruments, the group has used an arranging software to play and hear pieces remotely, but community building is the big focus.
Members of the Yale Precision Marching Band have continued with practice this fall with one big change: They have traded in their instruments for computer screens.
The YPMB, which usually performs in front of thousands at the Yale Bowl during home Saturday football games before moving to Ingalls Rink and John J. Lee Amphitheater in the winter, has been holding its usual rehearsals every Friday over Zoom this fall. Except this semester, the members are not actively practicing with their instruments. Instead, the group uses an arranging software to play pieces, and members spend rehearsal time listening to and familiarizing themselves with their songs. While this rehearsal format is unable to fully compensate for the lack of in-person practices, it has provided the band members with many opportunities to grow their relationships with one another.
“Going into the school year, I wasn’t really sure how rehearsals would work because it’s over Zoom and we can’t really play any music together,” Emmy James ’23, section leader for the band’s Kappa Banga Banga percussion fraternity, told the News. “But given all of that, I think the rehearsals have been doing a really good job to capture the spirit of what we’re trying to do here and the community building that the YPMB tries to foster during the school year.”
During a typical year, section leaders are tasked with responsibilities such as sorting music, dealing with logistics and facilitating bonding between members of their section. With the pandemic, they have now found themselves especially focused on cultivating team relationships by coordinating trivia nights, hosting games of Among Us and building their TikTok presences. The band has even begun using rehearsal time to write scripts for “The Office”-style mockumentaries that showcase its lighthearted spirit.
Through these mockumentaries, Elizabeth Calabresi ’22, who occupies the position of drum major and conducts the Yale Precision Marching Band, hopes to relieve some of the stress brought on by the uncertain times.
“The YPMB has always been the kind of group where members can have fun and be themselves,” Calabresi said. “I hope that through the mockumentaries we can spark joy and maintain positive energy even as we’re dealing with COVID.”
Although the YPMB has been making the most of their time apart, there are many aspects and experiences that virtual meetings cannot replace. Catherine Zhang ’24 told the News that she misses performing with fellow band members at games and yelling at the top of her lungs after a long and stressful week.
Saxophone section leader Alina Martel ’23 also expressed her longing to be back in the atmosphere of the Yale Bowl, citing performances for fans who regularly show up to watch the YPMB in action as one of her favorite parts of football games.
“It’s stuff like that where people are just really excited to see you and people know you,” Martel said. “That’s definitely something that feels really special from the outset.”
At the beginning of the semester, the YPMB held a formal recruitment process that involved “faux-ditions” held over Zoom. Auditionees were asked to play “Down the Field,” one of the songs the band regularly plays, but the band welcomed anyone that expressed interest in joining the organization, regardless of how well they performed.
James stressed the open and accepting environment of the group, noting that it is not as intense or competitive as other marching bands at some other schools. Even those who do not play an instrument are able to be a part of the band, as there is a section in which members can build props for halftime shows or even play the rubber chicken.
While the band members initially joined the YPMB for the music, James’ co-section leader Laszlo Kopits ’23 explained that it is not what has ultimately kept them unified. Instead, he credits the marching band’s supportive and tight-knit community.
“My favorite part is how hard everyone tries to include everyone and everything,” Kopits said. “[The band is] very tight and it’s intentionally so. It’s a really nice norm that exists here that I haven’t really seen anywhere else.”
Calabresi, the marching band’s drum major, has also been thoroughly impressed by the drive and resilience of the group. The positivity and dedication exhibited by each member is one of the reasons why the YPMB has been able to remain active this semester, she noted.
She told the News that there has been a good amount of participation at every rehearsal and even though the times are hard, Calabresi said that she appreciates the positive energy and willingness of the members to go above and beyond expectations.
“Everything is completely optional,” Calabresi said. “People’s attendance and participation stems from their love for the band. That’s something that I really appreciate, and I’m so grateful that I get to be the leader of such a special group.”
The YPMB includes six core sections: Kappa Kappa Banga percussion, low brass, saxophones, squaaangs, trumpets and upper woodwinds.
Trisha Nguyen | firstname.lastname@example.org