By: Lea Victoria Juarez
They toot their horns, bang drums and make the opposing teams wish they had never crossed over into Bronc Territory. The UTPA Pep Band is armed with instruments and ready for game time.
The Pep Band ensemble has been a part of the UTPA music program for six years. It is one of 19 ensembles offered to all the university students regardless of major. With a current membership of about 25, the Pep Band uses instruments and comical antics to liven up Bronc basketball games.
“To be in the band you need to play your instrument, have a good personality, know how to heckle and have a lot of fun,” senior music education major Peter Garza said.
Their vivacious spirit combined with a variety of upbeat music selections like Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” plus rhythmic drum cadences and cheers, are the recipe for both fan and team inspiration.
“We play stand tunes to get the crowd involved, get the players pumped up, keep a good mood throughout the game,” senior drumline member Trinidad Lopez Jr. said. “As a whole, our job is to motivate and pump up our crowd and home team.”
Part of being in the band means dishing out witty taunts to the opposing team. Senior member Federrico Solis explains that they have a number of ways of egging foes on and distracting them from the game.
“We say small things to mess with their heads,” Solis said. “We take to their errors and throw it in their faces to mess with them.”
From the moment of arrival until they’ve exited the building, members take their position high in the bleachers behind the opposing team, making noise to rally the players and the crowd. And their actions are appreciated.
“They bring the energy,” senior guard Jared Maree said. “When we come out, they’re the first thing we hear and see. They bring the support and do a great job of getting opponents and giving them a hard time.”
Because of financial issues and conflicts in schedules, the Pep Band is only able to perform at home basketball games. When the teams are on the road, players must rely on themselves and the crowd alone to stay pumped up and invigorated.
“The away games differ a lot,” junior guard Brandon Provost said. “Even if we do have a good crowd turnout, the band is always the loudest and most energetic people in the stands.”
From November through March, the Pep Band can be heard at every home basketball game for both men and women. Director of Bands Saul Torres is looking to branch out into other sports, but because of the lack of funds it is likely to be a difficult task.
“They [the band members] play X amount of games and get X amount of money,” Torres explained. “The money that is allotted is scholarships for the students. Technically they are going to each game and getting paid to be there.”
While it is essentially a job, money is no matter. The band members are merely spectators with a little extra oomph. They’re there to support the team through both its challenges and triumphs.
“It’s a lot of fun and we all enjoy it,” Garza said. “We’re all there to support the team. It brings out the school spirit in all of us and it helps us understand what it is to be a Bronc.”
The opposing teams may be on the receiving end of light-hearted jabs from the Pep Band, but even they can’t deny the liveliness they put into the basketball games.
“Our band is awesome,” men’s coach Ryan Marks said. “They’re as good as anyone else’s band from any other team we’ve played. I’ve had a couple of coaches from the other teams say things like, ‘You know, your band is really good.”
Like a heartbeat, their spirit resonates through the UTPA basketball teams and fans. As they cheer on the Broncs and heckle to other teams in good sport of the game, they present a passion that can be felt through the players.
“Just hearing them yell out our name is motivating,” Maree explained. “They really have our backs whether we’re up or down or if the game is close. They’re always into the game and they bring it every night.”