The End of an Era

When the Western Michigan University Bronco Marching band lines up today for their march down West Michigan Avenue, it will mark the beginning of the end for their season and the end of an era here at WMU. Band Director William Pease will be leading the band in his final game as the band director for the Broncos.

"I hope for this next game they're really coming out and raising a lot of hell out there because we are going to try to. It's going to be difficult to put into words but I feel very, very much a part of the community and very much a part of the university," Pease said. "I feel bad in some ways for leaving but on the other hand I've done everything I could, I haven't left any stones unturned so there's nothing more I can really do than what I've done."

It was 6 years ago that Pease came to Kalamazoo and in those six years he has brought the band to a new level. He has been a positive influence on so many people's lives and it shows with the band reaching over 320 members annually now. "Mr. Pease is not only our director and leader, but he's a role model to most of us," Trevor Zielinski (sophomore, Tuba) said. "He's just a good guy that we can go to and talk to whenever we need something and whenever something is going on that we need someone to talk to he's always there."

John Phillips, a junior tuba player, was really affected by Pease and with enthusiasm told us, "Pease has been like a father to all of us in general. I've never been so happy with a band director in my life. We were all really sad to hear that he was leaving. It was a very touching moment for everyone in the room when he said he was leaving. He's always been on the tuba section because he loves us the most, "Tubas I can't hear you; tubas I can't hear you." finally this year he's like, "Tubas that's what I was looking for." So it's been a good year this year."

But what is it like for someone who has been at WMU as a student for the same amount of time as Pease has been the band director? Paul Stanton is in his sixth year at Western and is one of the five drum majors on the field today. "To me he's kind of like that older brother figure. I came in the same year he did and we're leaving the same year so it's kind of a neat experience." Stanton continued, "Him and I have gotten really close, we'll go out and play basketball after rehearsals on Friday afternoons, then when we are in rehearsals it's business, hard nose, we're ready to go. As soon as rehearsals over lets forget what happened on the field and lets get back to the relationship that we had."

Pease has become known as being able to put together completely new halftime shows each and every week during the football season and today's show will be now different. He just happened to put together a tribute to the band that was the only band this writer has ever seen in concert, "It's kind of a culmination we're playing the music of Chicago; "Make Me Smile" "25 or 6 to 4" "Saturday in the Park" and we're finishing with big noise." Pease continued, "It's a big, loud, lot of fun show, rock band."

But when asked what his most memorable show here at WMU was, his answer was somewhat surprising, "Gosh, it's really not one moment. I would say it's just the students. That's probably unlimited, infinite. It's just the different students I've met throughout the years. That's going to be more memories than anything, not one particular show or one particular game. I think just students. To me the students and the friends, I don't think it's really able to put it on one show because every year we do completely different shows. It's like I was asking a composer one time, "What's favorite piece of music?" and he said a really good response which I really liked. He said, "Think of them as your children, sometimes the ones that don't work as well you kind of care for them even more," and I said that's a good point. When somebody would ever ask about the show I would think about that a lot. I think the ones that probably didn't work the way I wanted them to I probably think I really wanted them to work. They all become a part of you and I don't know if I have one favorite. The patriotic shows to me are the most touching shows, students aren't as thrilled about playing them until they hear the response from the crowd. The CommUniverCity Night shows are always great because of the crowd. I don't know I have to tell you sitting up in the stands, meeting all the students, the band; it will be a sad day on Saturday. It really will be."

However, his student's had their favorites just ask Stanton, "My favorite one that we ever did was a Latin show from, I believe it was 2001 and I have always wanted to do a Latin show," Stanton said. "I'm a former trumpet player so that was kind of the one thing that I've always wanted to do."

Pease decided take the position at Virginia for two reasons; one being a challenge considering the challenges the university has recently had with their bands and the second being the fact that it was a financially sound decision.

Pease told us, "It's a dream to have a band in that level conference that level of a university. It's a great academic institution. I have a lot of pride for the state and I grew up there so I love the state, I love what it stands for. But, I have really fallen in love with Michigan and we will see how it works out there. I want it to be my final stop, but if it isn't then we will see how it all works out. You never know I might come back to Kalamazoo. You never know, that door is always open. But we will have to do just one thing at a time but I'm not in it for the short term. I felt like I could have easily left this year in August when I got the job. They wanted me to, they said, "We will buy out your contract," I said no because I'm staying here until the end of this season and it's been tough. I don't think I have been as focused as I have needed to be sometimes but nobody can probably tell but myself. It's a dream job, I guess. This is a dream job so if someone says that it's like a slap in the face to Western. This has been a dream job for me. The only thing that's really going to be different is I should probably make more money. That's probably the only difference. (The money kind of helps when you have family) Well that really does and Western didn't have any more money and I really didn't ask for a lot more but they couldn't give it. I know what budget issues we're dealing with now and with my band budget there is going to be so much more than it is here. What's nice about that is I can give to the students what they deserve and I'm not talking about extra things, just equipment can be better, facilities could be nicer, funds to do things for the students which I really want to be able to do. We need somebody to give a million dollars to this band because they deserve it. We need to get that going because it's a special bond out here and I'm sure it will be there too but it's going to take time. It's going to take a lot of time."

Phillips understands the move too, "You would be really stupid to not join the band. I know he's walking into a resistance down there with that pep band but I hope he does well because he's like the nicest guy I have ever met. I mean unbelievable, unbelievable. I wasn't going to do college marching band but now I'm in, I'm in for life. I'm in for next year and probably until I graduate because of him."

WMU may or may not be planning on honoring Pease at the football game today, but their will be something special taking place this weekend for him. Sunday the Bronco Marching Band will be performing a concert at Mille Auditorium at 3:00pm.

If you get a chance to see Mr. Pease between now and next weekend, thank him for the job he has done and wish him luck at Virginia. Next weekend while the Broncos are playing the Toledo Rockets he will be heading to Virginia, "We're not taking a pep band but some are probably going to go and watch. I'm sure they are for sure." Pease continued, "I don't know if I'm going or not, I'm leaving that day to go to Virginia. So I might stop by the game depending on what time the game is and how things are going. I'm going to try to stop by and watch myself."

One thing is for sure, this has been an eye opening experience for Pease and the band with all the attention he has been getting. Phillips couldn't have said it any better, "Yeah, I think it's amazing. Especially when he got the front page of the (Kalamazoo) Gazette we were all like, "Holy crap, look it's Mr. Pease." I brought the paper to the sectional and everyone was like, "Oh my gosh, he's on the front page." But, we've always had, I can't remember the name of the columnist, the guy that used to write for the Gazette. I can't think of his name but he always used to talk about us and always compare us to Michigan and we used to get kind of sick of that. But now everyone is starting to realize what a great band we have. We got many, many, many people impressed thanks to Pease."

We can only hope that Mr. Pease can have as good if not better success down at Virginia because he is one person who deserves it. Thank you Bill, you will be missed.


Breaking News

We were informed two days ago that Drum Corps International will be coming to Western Michigan University. According to Jim Cook DCI will be performing at Waldo Stadium on July 9, 2004, just before the start of the 2004 football season. Initially the proceeds from the event was going to go to the Athletic Department, but the university has decided to give all the proceeds to the WMU Bronco Marching Band.

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories