The Band continues to be the number one supporter of athletics at Stanford. Members sacrifice academic and social life to cheer on Stanford football, volleyball, basketball, and other teams (water polo, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, to name a few) across the country. (The Band frequently spends out of its own budget to accompany teams on trips because the Athletic Department will not provide that funding.) During the last football season, I made sure that we played for every single first down, every single third down stop, every turnover, and other big plays (in addition to timeouts) to inspire both the team and the crowd. (Unfortunately, these were few and far between this year, but this still surpasses the activity of any other Pac-10 band, including U$C*). Those in Spokane last weekend will recognize that the Band led cheers during every Cardinal defensive (and almost every offensive) possession of both games. Frankly, no person or group provides more consistent support for Stanford athletes. In contrast, other Stanford students continue to exhibit pathetic support for their classmates. Even the traditionally strong 6th Man Club now begins to empty before games even end. This year's Arizona game was the only game (including Cal) that even approached the intensity we used to have at every home game. As far as alumni are concerned, they continue to pay their money to sit silently in their seats, adding nothing to the atmosphere beyond the red shirt they wear. It amuses me to no end reading their posts, hearing them complain about lack of vocal support when I watch them sit on their hands in Spokane, in San Jose, in LA, and even in Maples and Stanford Stadium.
Musically, the Band continues to shine during basketball season. LSJUMB arrangements blow the formulaic and overplayed standards of other bands out of the water. In a setting where the ground is leveled in terms of numbers, the Band adds volume and intensity that other bands do not. While reception in Pac-10 environments where the Band is familiar (recently Spokane, Anaheim, San Diego) is relatively lukewarm, new audiences always love the Band (see New Orleans, Boston, or Birmingham). As has been discussed before on the message boards, the style of playing is best suited to basketball. The Band fills out our space in terms of numbers, sits in a confined space that is musically helpful, and plays rock music suited to the fast-paced nature of basketball. Because numbers are limited, only the best musicians perform; the Band is at its best in this environment.
Football presents more challenges. The LSJUMB does not enjoy the advantages of most every college marching band in the country (scholarships, recruiting privileges, early arrival to school, mandatory participation of music majors, a student body of 20,000-30,000, etc). The musical demands of the Band are incredible: whereas the U$C band plays only five songs during the course of an entire football game, the LSJUMB plays from a 70-song folder without ever repeating a song. Every musician in Band is welcome, meaning that the facility of the group as a whole is lowered. The musical demands are increased – for simple reasons of physics - it is more difficult to play together across a field of 100 yards than in bleachers 20 feet across. The Band does not enjoy the numerical advantages of other Bands – against U$C, the LSJUMB was able to field less than half the 200 members their band brought – and thus has difficulty matching volume in such a large venue.
This is not to say that these obstacles are not insurmountable. The LSJUMB has overcome these things in the past and can again. Currently, the Band is struggling to grow past two weak recruiting years. As a start, 51 freshmen joined the LSJUMB this fall. Normally, this is a very strong year, but it barely covered the losses of a large and talented senior class. With another fall or two of similar numbers, look for the LSJUMB to improve visibly in numbers and quality. Musically, the Band is also beginning to improve. A return to actual rehearsal last year dramatically improved the quality (if not volume) of ensemble playing on and off the field. As musical commitment is affirmed in rehearsals, this sound should continue to improve. Giancarlo's (new director) oversight and guidance should help with this task. Basically, the Band has begun a musical rebirth whose results should be increasingly visible. [Many have mentioned the "butchering" of the National Anthem. After almost a decade of playing the same arrangement in Maples, the Band has debuted a version by Giancarlo, the new director. It has taken some time to get off the ground, and its quality should be fine when next played at volleyball games this fall.]
The Band has always taken an active stance in lampooning opponents and current events in its field shows and other antics. This is where the Band has earned the most attention (or notoriety) and has received the most praise, as well as criticism. My own personal opinion on the matter is that the Band accomplishes two things: 1. The Band is a slap in the face to people who take themselves too seriously (perhaps some Booties?). It enjoys playing, makes things fun for its audience, and urges people to laugh at life and themselves. 2. The Band is the ultimate champion for free thought, and it makes people think. With the exception of the individual who chose to write "No War" on their shirt in Spokane, the French outfits made no specific statement at all. Rather, they made people think. Do the Band's antics always work? Of course not. In this day and age, though, I would much prefer that someone say something I don't like than say nothing at all. I welcome the criticism after Spokane because it means the Band accomplished its goal: it made people think. Regardless, I fail to see how the Band's field shows, so often criticized, are a distraction to the team. The basketball team, with whom the Band shared a hotel, said nothing to that effect – those who did speak of its role at the game were complimentary and thankful for the support. The football team is in the locker room whenever the LSJUMB takes the field – that connection, to me, is ridiculous.
Many on the message boards have indicated that while they support the Band at its best, the act has become tired and is no longer funny. Frankly, the LSJUMB is dealing with a different administration than in the past. The Band was disallowed from performing a field show at