Pep Band at NCAA Tournament Games

Prof. Kevin Champagne and the UAlbany Pep Band were part of the excitement as they played for basketball fans at both the men's and women's tournament games recently. Prof. Champagne has been leading the Pep Band as well as our University-Community Symphonic Band for over ten years now. And last fall, he began leading our new Marching Band. Currently, the Pep Band is forty members strong with 20-35 members participating per game. Recently, Prof. Champagne was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to share some thoughts about the Pep Band's participation in March Madness:

"Many college students travel to Florida for spring break, but twenty-nine Pep Band students had their trips fully paid for by the NCAA! Sunday, March 16th at 6 PM, the Band and I learned that we would be traveling to Dayton, Ohio for the Men’s NCAA tournament play-in game. We left UAlbany on a bus for the airport thirteen hours later at 7 AM on St. Patrick’s Day.

Pep BandThe team won their game on Tuesday night, so we traveled that night to Orlando, Florida, arriving at our hotel at about 2:30 in the morning. The men lost their next game and went home, but the band wasn’t done. Friday night, the band flew to Baton Rouge, Louisiana because the women’s team was in the NCAA tournament also--for the third straight year! Unfortunately, the women lost a game that was close until the end, and we came home Monday morning, leaving our hotel exactly one week after we left UAlbany.

This trip was like a performance tour for the Pep Band. The Band played very well at all three stops, and they were by far the most boisterous pep band everywhere we went. When they weren’t playing, they were chanting or cheering. It is the only band I have ever seen that has individual chants for the players. On the television broadcasts, the band was shown many times and was also talked about in a positive manner. It was mentioned how loud we are as fans and how we all wore tape under our eyes during the America East championship game in support of Sarah Royals, who had just needed to get stitches on her face from an injury in the previous game. An online article by USA Today mentioned us as the 'Band of the Day' in Florida. That distinction was over seven other bands, including Florida, Pitt, and North Carolina.

This is probably the tightest group of students I have ever worked with. Most of them were in Marching Band in fall and they became very close then, spending a lot of time together outside of rehearsals as well as during our three to ten hours a week of rehearsal. I have traveled with the Pep Band to the NCAA tournament five of the eleven years we have had a pep band, which is a great ratio, and speaks very well of our basketball teams. Those trips included Philadelphia, Delaware, Ohio, and Texas. While the other trips were a lot of fun, you can’t beat a full week that includes sunny, 80 degree weather, knowing it is snowing and sleeting back in Albany!"

Prof. Champagne can be reached at (518) 442-4192 or by e-mail at kchampagne@albany.edu.

Kevin Champagne