Full disclosure….. I’m a Tarheel fan ‘till the day I die! Way back to the late 80’s – early 90’s teams of what I call “The Jordan Era”. However, I was born and raised in South Carolina, So of course I was cheering for the Gamecocks as this year’s Women’s team ascended to their first National Championship! This year, with all the nail biting excitement of the NCAA Tournament, the USC and UNC pep bands have rocked the coliseum stands and broke the internet at the same time!

No matter which school you were pulling for, these bands, (along with all the other Pep Bands, Cheer Squads, and Ride or Die Fans) Have captivated audiences, supported their teams to the very end, and left it all on the floor. Even when turning the gym floor to a dance floor!…

Mr. Cormac Cannon – Dir. of Athletic Bands, Univ. of South Carolina

Block Us Up!: Mr Cannon, thank you for giving us a small amount of your time today. We are doing an article about the bands of the NCAA tournament, specifically UNC and USC. Could you share with us how it felt for your band members to participate in the NCAA tournaments?

Cormac Cannon: “The University of South Carolina Basketball Band was thrilled to support our men’s and women’s basketball teams in the conference and NCAA tournaments.”

Block Us Up!: What was the journey to the finals like for you and your students?

Cormac Cannon: “Over the course of four weeks, our students traveled to Greenville, SC, Nashville, TN, New York, NY, Stockton, CA, Phoenix, AZ, and Dallas, TX. It was a thrill to be part of our two teams’ exciting paths to the men’s and women’s Final 4.”

Block Us Up!: how do your students balance their academic requirements with their obligations to support their team?

Cormac Cannon: “Students worked hard to study during off days, and also took many exams on the road. While sending two bands across the country at the same time was a great challenge, it was well worth the effort!!”

Block Us Up!: I know this has been an exciting, but busy time of year for you and your students thank you for taking the time to contribute to our story.

Cormac Cannon: Thanks for reaching out! I enjoy the coverage you give all the bands.”

Athletic bands of today have branched out from the strict repertoire of music you may hear at a concert or any other campus events. Be prepared to bop along to today’s latest hits from the world’s biggest pop stars when listening to a band at a football game, basketball game, or volleyball game. Heck you may even hear some “Ju-ju on that beat” at a gymnastics match! However, just as the teams we all support have worked hard all year long to perfect their craft and represent their schools well, so have the bands. Even though it is our jobs to make it all look effortless, we spend hours preparing for these major, televised, performances, just as the players. And then there’s the grueling schedule of the tournament which is a monster in itself! We caught up with Prof. Jeff Fuchs, Director of UNC University Bands to get his take on the NCAA Tournament  and the long road to the finals...

FUCHS, JEFF 5/02/01-2
Mr. Jeffrey Fuchs, Dir. of UNC University Bands

Block Us Up!: Mr Fuchs, thank you for giving us a small amount of your time today.  Could you first share with us how band members are selected for tournament participation?

Jeff Fuchs: “We play home basketball games with about 230 students and rehearse weekly to make sure that every member of the band is prepared to be one of 29 when it comes time to travel.  There is a huge difference in being one of 35 trumpets and one of 7. Tournament time can be grueling but it is also the most exciting time of year for the kids who travel.  We were on the road 20 of the last 28 days and got to spend time in New York City, Greenville (SC), Memphis (TN) and Phoenix (AZ). 

Block Us Up!: how do your students balance their academic requirements with their obligations to support their team?

Jeff Fuchs: Everywhere we go, we have a study room for the students that is a quiet zone equipped with WiFi.  The kids frequently Skype into their classes and this year I proctored about 15 exams.  It is tough on the students but as Mark Twain once said, you can’t let school get in the way of your education.”

Block Us Up!: How does going all the way to the finals for back to back seasons affect your program?

Jeff Fuchs: “Successful athletic teams are great for a band program. The number of new students increased by nearly 25 kids last year and we expect to see another increase this year.  Retention numbers are also better when there is sustained success in one or more sports.  

Block Us Up!: What is it like to experience the NCAA tournament on a regular basis?

Jeff Fuchs: There is so much that goes on that does not get seen – from pep rallies before and after the games, open practice performances, Fan Fest performances, etc.  The kids work hard during the tournament and especially the Final Four.  But they also get to do things that the may never otherwise get to do. For instance, we were able to spend a day at the Grand Canyon and a morning at the Musical Instrument Museum while in the Phoenix area.  Both were awesome experiences for the kids and were essentially free.”

Block Us Up!: There are many who may not realize the demand of that 3 week tournament schedule, thank you for helping us to fully understand it all and for educating our audience on exactly what goes on behind the scenes to properly prepare a band for the finals.

Jeff Fuchs: Thanks for doing the article.

Hats off to all the pep bands out there sacrificing in huge ways just to continue to bring entertainment and excitement to the sports arena!

Published by Ernest Stackhouse

-Music Educator -Marching Band Show Design -Musical Arranger -Adjudicator -Fine Arts Administrator -Band Director -Writer

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