As Boston College Superfans, it is our mission to support and take pride in all of our athletic programs, particularly our varsity sports teams. Although this pride is questionable for some students, it is always apparent, no matter how big or small of an achievement a team accomplishes.
Whether it's a "moral victory" or achieving a national ranking, there are always those loyal Superfans there to support the team--regardless of the occasion.
It is not hard for one to realize what it takes to be a D-1 athlete and recognize the tremendous effort that these students put in to both their game and their education.
But what about that by-stander--seen and heard frequently at every home competition, bellowing out the tunes of an Alma Mater and fight song?
What about the team that is always seen and heard, but not spoken of as often as the athletes playing the game?
That all-important character im referring to, of course, is our marching band, the BC Screaming Eagles.
They wake us up on gameday and pump us up at halftime, and throughout the whole game for that matter. Who can resist belting out “Sweet Caroline” when the band starts playing the tune?
The band’s presence has grown significantly over the years, evolving into a much more powerful, uniting experience.
As marching band director and BC Class of ‘90 alum David Healey recounts, the program has undergone massive changes since he was a student almost 20 years ago.
“The Band formerly sat in the stands during the football games and only played following a touchdown or between quarters," he said. "Today, we pride ourselves in being able to play throughout the game with a diverse musical repertoire.”
It is this expansion of the band’s musical variety that Healey attributes to the rise of the “Superfan."
“In many ways, the rise of the modern band has paralleled the rise of Superfans,” says Healey. “As the football team began to enjoy sustained success on the field, the Superfans engaged with the band to provide a quirky but enthusiastic and powerful camaraderie in the stands.”
Win or lose, you can always hear the BC faithful cheering on the team with the band as their leader.
BC is unique in this respect, as Healey notes that many other university teams cheer along with pre-recorded band music played over a PA system.
“Boston College cherishes its unique identity," proclaims Healey, an ardent believer of organic music. "And there's no better game day manifestation of that spirit than the sound and pageantry of the marching band in tandem with our own student body.”
This unique quality about our game day experience as BC Eagles sets us apart from other schools, much to the same effect of our hockey team's NCAA championship legacy.
The marching band is the unsung hero of BC athletics, serving as an incredible support structure for team morale and spirit.
Their accomplishments parallel the achievements of our prized hockey team, too.
And if a National Championship is the ultimate goal for our athletic programs, then the Presidential Inauguration this year was the Screaming Eagles’ personal "Super Bowl."
The BC Marching Band was nationally recognized this past January as they performed at the 57th Presidential Inauguration Parade, by far the most prestigious event the band has participated in to date.
Healey remarks of the event, “Although we have participated in other high profile events including the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Heisman Memorial Trophy Dinner, and concert performances with the Dropkick Murphys, the scope and grandeur of the Inaugural Parade was unparalleled.”
The student body definitely responded to this honor. Social media was buzzing the day of the inauguration, with pictures of the marching band on TV screens popping up, and an abundance of retweets and shared posts making their way on the feeds of nearly everyone in the BC community.
“The Band members were particularly grateful for the widespread and sustained support from the entire BC community,” Healey said. “The opportunity to represent Boston College and the state of Massachusetts on this national day of celebration was a cherished experience for our students and staff members alike.”
This kind of national recognition doesn’t come easy. The members of the marching band dedicate many hours outside of class to master each note and step with absolute proficiency.
“From the start of our preseason camp in August through the last home game in November, each Band member devotes over 200 hours in service to the university. That's a significant number because it's comparable to a full course load.” says Healey.
The band members display a dedication that is admirable. They are not in it for any perks or ancillary recognition; they do it because they genuinely want to represent the school in this unique and special way.
“These students participate in the band without any academic recognition or scholarships even as most other D-I programs offer either or both," Healey adds, which makes the self-satisfaction these students get even more apparent.
In fact, Healey notes that half of the student-musicians have never marched in a large ensemble like the Screaming Eagles before, and dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the craft. You can’t even tell the inexperienced members from those who have participated in marching bands.
They’re that good--and that motivated.
Band members don’t just excel during halftime shows, but in the classroom as well. According to Healey, the mean GPA of these student-musicians is greater than of the general undergraduate population.
It’s truly exceptional that the Screaming Eagles are able to maintain their grades with the hours of practice and game day duties they put in to be able to be a part of the band.
But for these students, it is all worth their time and effort. It is that very dedication that creates this student organization’s presence on campus.
As Healey puts it, “The sense of accomplishment and proficiency these students enjoy as members of the Marching Band is not easily obtained in other traditional classroom environments.”
As for the future of the marching band, Superfans can look forward to and even more diversified halftime show.
Healey shared a little sneak peak from his position as Band Director as to what we can expect.
“We're hoping to collaborate with the Chinese Student Association this season with an Asian-inspired halftime show featuring a Dragon Dance," Healey explains. “In the stands, we'll be adding new instrumentation and some new musical selections to our repertoire. Most importantly, we'll try to prepare the students for the next great unanticipated performance opportunity so we're ready to represent Boston College locally, nationally, or internationally as the need arises!”
From the looks of what the Screaming Eagles have accomplished so far, who knows what the future holds. But one thing’s for certain: no matter what endeavour our marching band pursues, Superfans will be cheering them on with pride.
They maintain the pulse of our school spirit, whether it be a football game in the fall, or a mid-winter hockey contest in Conte.
Feature Photo Courtesy of Proacguy1 / Flickr.
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