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05-05-04

Most of you know that "House Joint Resolution No. 284" commending the Pep Band on its 30th Anniversary passed the Virginia House of Delegates but did not make it through the Virginia Senate.

Most of you probably are not aware that, after the Senate's action, the House of Delegates passed "House Resolution No. 19," which said the exact same thing as HR 284. (Need to see it to believe it? Go to: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=041&typ=bil&val=hr19.)

We're quite pleased by the House's action. Heck, we're pleased whenever the Pep Band receives any official recognition (unless, of course, it comes from a West Virginia state official). We also note that, with more members representing smaller districts, the House of Delegates is the more democratic side of Virginia's legislature and thus more representative of the "true" popular opinion of the Commonwealth.

Today, Del. Mitch Van Yahres, the chief patron of both HJ 284 and HR 19, is presenting the Pep Band with an official copy of HR 19 commending the Pep Band on its 30th Anniversary. The presentation is taking place on the steps of the Rotunda and will be covered by the media. (Any press coverage will be posted at the "Press Coverage" link on FVPB's website: www.orangevest.org.) Despite the occurrence of the final exams this week, current members will scurry out from their cubicles in the library dressed in their orange vests to receive this recognition.

As noted by the House Resolution, 2004 is indeed the 30th Anniversary of the Pep Band's first field show. FVPB and the Pep Band are co-sponsoring a BIG 30th Anniversary celebration in Charlottesville during Homecoming Weekend this Fall. Mark your calendars now and please plan to join us!!! We'll send out the details as they develop.

As some of you know, the Pep Band has not made any progress with the Athletic Department in the past year. Despite repeated attempts by FVPB, the Pep Band, and the UVa Student Council to negotiate the Band's way back into Olympic sports (sports other than basketball and football), the Athletic Department remains opposed *any* Pep Band music at UVa varsity sports.

In an effort to keep the UVa community up to date about the status of the Pep Band, FVPB will be submitting the following statement for publication in the Alumni News. We thought it might interest you.

Thank you again for your continued support of the Virginia Pep Band!

***FVPB STATEMENT***

LET THE PEP BAND PLAY - BECAUSE TWO BANDS WOULD BE BETTER THAN ONE

April 24 marked the one-year anniversary of what fans of the Virginia Pep Band refer to as "Black Thursday" ― the day on which the Athletic Department changed the locks on the Pep Band's instrument closet without notice and surprised the Pep Band's leadership with the news that the Pep Band was being excluded from future athletic events. The Pep Band's abrupt ouster occurred on the second-to-last day of classes (when student press coverage was minimal) and at a meeting misleadingly called for the purpose of planning for the upcoming year. As we reflect upon this anniversary, we continue to be upset by the Athletic Department's unnecessarily callous treatment of the all-volunteer Pep Band after nearly thirty years of service. We are also dissatisfied with the University's failure to find some role for the Pep Band at athletic events, despite pleas from several corners of the UVa community for a reasonable compromise.

Since April 2003, the University has offered unconvincing double-talk about why the Pep Band cannot play at at least some athletic events. President Casteen has spoken of a desire to improve the performing arts at the University. How is this goal accomplished by shutting out from athletics a thirty-year-old performing arts organization?

The Athletic Department has said that it wants to throw all of its financial resources behind the new marching band. This, too, is a hollow justification for excluding the Pep Band. The Pep Band has made clear that it does not require any funding from the Athletic Department in order to support UVa's athletic teams. Thanks to the help of Friends of the Virginia Pep Band (FVPB), a support group of more than 1,000 alumni, the Pep Band has resources to remain well equipped.

Last Fall, the Athletic Department took initial steps in the right direction but reversed course. Athletic Director Craig Littlepage met with the Pep Band's leaders several times about the Band playing at Olympic sports (i.e., sports other than football and basketball) but delayed a decision until Bill Pease, the new marching band director, arrived on Grounds. Then, after Mr. Pease's arrival, Mr. Littlepage abruptly changed direction and announced that the new marching band would send smaller bands to perform at Olympic sports. Meanwhile, UVa's various Olympic sport teams (e.g., men's and women's lacrosse) have played dozens of home games without so much as a note of musical support from Mr. Pease's band. The Pep Band has attended numerous Olympic sports in uniform but without instruments, unable to play because of the Athletic Department's line drawing. Sadly, those bearing the brunt of the Athletic Department's questionable exclusion of the Pep Band are its own student athletes, who are deprived of the atmosphere and excitement that only a college band can bring.

The issue is not whether to have a marching band. The Athletic Department's largest benefactor (Carl Smith) has spoken, and the University will understandably not disappoint him. The issue is whether or not the Pep Band and the new marching band can co-exist supporting UVa athletics as part of a two-band system. Despite all of the excuses wrapped in policy talk, there is no good reason why a two-band system can't work at UVa. Both the Pep Band and Mr. Pease have said they are willing to work together, if permitted by the Athletic Department. Many other universities, including at least one right here in the Commonwealth (Virginia Tech), have two bands supporting their athletic teams. The University needs to realize that having a marching band is not a zero-sum game.

And there is no question that the Pep Band can still play. This year, the Pep Band regularly played for UVa's rugby and ice hockey club teams; put on a well received field show at a University of Pennsylvania football game; played at a Columbia University football game and in New York's Central Park; and performed to rave reviews at a Washington Capitals hockey game.

It is also clear that the public desires a compromise. Last summer, a lead editorial in The Cavalier Daily recommended a two-band system with the Pep Band playing at Olympic sports ("Preserving Pep," 06/26/03). In February 2004, the UVa Student Council passed a resolution supporting the co-existence of two bands at athletics. In March 2004, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution recognizing the Pep Band as "a unique and valued tradition in the history of the University of Virginia and the Commonwealth" and commending the Pep Band on its 30th Anniversary. Finally, the University's alumni, through FVPB, have rallied to support the Pep Band in its time of need.

The unfair treatment and unnecessary exclusion of the Pep Band reflect poorly upon UVa. It is time for the University to address the situation and afford the Pep Band some relief. We hope that the Athletic Department (or, if necessary, those who supervise the Athletic Department) will at last pursue a compromise that allows both the new marching band and the Pep Band to support UVa athletics. A compromise will achieve a "win-win" for everyone involved and ultimately benefit UVa's student athletes and fans of Olympic sports. After the University's ungracious treatment of the Pep Band during the past year, such an arrangement would be a welcome, if not timely, resolution.

― The FVPB Board of Directors
 

 

 

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