Sports are integral to school spirit and college culture, and NJIT is no different. From the swim and track meets to the soccer and basketball games, each event is a great way of bringing NJIT students together to cheer on our athletes. Even without a football team and the accompanying marching band, NJIT students still have a way to bring pep to the step of the crowds at NJIT’s basketball games: the NJIT Pep Band.
Now commonplace at every NJIT basketball home game and Homecoming, the Pep Band started its humble beginnings in the Society of Musical Arts (SOMA). Founded in 2014, SOMA is a way of connecting and organizing all the different musical groups on campus, from the Wind Ensemble, to the String Ensemble, to the various a cappella groups. With the music initiative in full swing by 2016, it was clear that there was an interest in bringing music to the crowds of the basketball games in the same style as marching bands for football teams.
The university offered support to Pep Band, offering $10,000 for instruments and music. SOMA members Katherine Coombs and Colin Pope successfully kicked off the Pep Band, starting with 15 committed members. Since then, Pep Band has more than doubled its headcount.
Coombs, a senior Biomedical Engineering major, said “I’ve always had a passion for music, sports and school spirit, so when the opportunity presented itself to found the Pep Band, I jumped on board. I’m so proud of how the Pep Band is able to bring together musicians and athletes at games and events on campus.”
Having made their debut at the 2016 home opener, the Pep Band has worked tirelessly to rehearse and coordinate with the Athletics Department for the 2017-2018 basketball season. In the 2018-2019 season, the Pep Band was able to perform at the WEC for the start of Homecoming and continued to play for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball home games.
Upon attending the basketball games, crowds can see how the Pep Band contributes to school spirit and pride, sporting red-and-white-striped Rugby shirts and cheering along with the cheerleaders and dance team from the stands.
The Pep Band plays classic band-stand tunes like “Smoke on the Water” and “Sweet Caroline,” and modern hits like “Happy” and “Bad Romance.” “Rock and Roll Part Two” (the “Hey!” song) in particular is perhaps the easiest for crowds to recognize, from its catchy rhythm and inclusion in the popular films “Happy Gilmore” and, more recently, “Joker.” The sounds of the drums, trumpets, trombones, saxophones and various other instruments are bound to bring some nostalgia to members of the crowd that miss their high school bands.
Devin Romanoff, a junior Computer Science major and Pep Band member, said “From the music, which is stuff most of the fans will recognize and enjoy, to having extra people cheer the Highlanders, there’s just a lot more energy that we can give.”
Much like the games themselves, the Pep Band builds the NJIT community. As musicians, the band members already connect with one another, and so with the opportunity to play music for the basketball team, they bring this sense of community to the audience. In the future, they hope to expand to the soccer games and spread the cheer even more.