Go to a Northwestern basketball game this year and you’ll soon learn that Welsh-Ryan Arena is not as tame as you would think. With the rising national profile of the Wildcats, the student section has slowly increased in number and energy as the fabled T-word bounces around with every postgame water cooler conversation. What hasn’t changed since the forgettable yesteryears is the presence of the ever-faithful basketball band, winter quarter’s version of football’s marching band.
Primarily comprised of marching band members still jonesing for the thrills of Ryan Field, the basketball band comes out in full force for every home game to support the annual quest to make the NCAA tournament. The band’s community aspect is what draws newcomers into the fold and keeps the band members together, like three-year veterans Karen Bullen, Nicole Collins and Jed Feder.
“After a whole quarter of seeing your same core group of friends, it’s nice to see them again in a similar setting,” said Collins, Weinberg junior and mellophone player.
“It’s great to stay together as a band, but also: I’m a fan. It’s a great reason to go see games besides just football,” said Feder, Weinberg junior and Spirit Leader. “And it’s great in general; people that join basketball band that weren’t in marching band get up to speed pretty quickly.”
In some respects, however, there is greater appeal to basketball band as opposed to marching band.
“It’s more comfortable not being in uniform,” says Bullen, Weinberg junior and clarinetist. “And basketball band [is] next to the student section, so it’s cool to bounce off each other’s momentum.”
“Basketball band has less of a time commitment; marching band meets 4 days a week, plus gameday, but basketball meets only once for rehearsal and games,” says Collins.
For basketball band veterans, recent history has become a reward for what has been a long lesson in patience. A 1-17 conference record two years ago seldom drew crowds for the band to stir up, and the success that continually comes for the on-the-bubble Wildcats is giving the band a greater presence at Welsh-Ryan this season.
“For some games, especially women’s games, sometimes it’s just us and maybe five to ten other people, so it’s hard to work off them,” says Bullen. “But now, sometimes there’s so many people singing the fight song that I can’t even hear myself play.”
“The atmosphere in the games, women’s too, has been amazing; I mean, I’ve never rushed the court before, and the game against Purdue was amazing,” gushed Collins.
Still, the pinnacle of success has yet to be attained for these, the musical faithful.
Says Collins, “NCAA tournament. God, I’d be so excited to go to the tournament.”