“Band, Atten-Huh?” Where’s the Pep Band?

Due to low enrollment, Chapman’s pep band was postponed until next year, leaving an empty void to fill at home football games this past fall. Graphic by Natalie Cartwright.
When he isn’t performing for Chapman’s pep band, Anthony Cevallos plays guitar for his rock band, “In Pixels,” which he started during COVID-19. Photo by Cevallos.

Anthony Cevallos arrived bright and early at Chapman University’s Oliphant Hall Sept. 1, excited to play trombone for the pep band’s first season back on campus after the pandemic.

Ready to meet fresh faces, the senior music major walked into the classroom – only to discover a grand total of three other people that showed up.

“I definitely felt a sense of melancholy,” Cevallos said.

A four-piece pep band? That ain’t gonna cut it.

Due to low enrollment, the Pride of Chapman pep band was officially postponed for the fall 2021 semester. The sounds of Panther pride would no longer echo at Chapman’s home football games. To make matters worse, the majority of the band’s previous members graduated in spring 2021, leaving behind very few students who knew about the pep band’s existence.

Cevallos worked to keep the band up and running by posting fliers around campus. He even proposed supplementing his four-piece rock band, “In Pixels,” with some brass instruments to play at rallies, which he and the director eventually agreed was not the right move.

“Obviously, a rock band is not the same thing as a traditional pep band,” Cevallos said.

Steven Olveda knew something was missing from Chapman’s home football games last fall: live music. Photo courtesy of Olveda.

As someone who grew up attending University of Southern California football games, Cevallos said it was an exciting experience to perform with the band, even if only for one season.

He reminisced about playing the Chapman fight song on the football field whenever their school won a game.

“The football team would come running at us and they’d be jumping around us while we were playing that song,” Cevallos said. “Everyone was so pumped up about that.”

Chapman’s football team, and even the live crowds, rely on the band at home games. Steven Olveda, Chapman’s sports information director, coordinates the band’s halftime show performances at home football games.

For Olveda, the band’s live music added to the game’s atmosphere, which he didn’t realize until last fall’s football season.

“After the first or second football game this year, after touchdowns, it was really quiet,” Olveda said. “I’m like, ‘why does it feel so quiet and kind of drawn out?’ Well, usually the pep band is playing after a touchdown.”

The Chapman pep band shows their pride, posing with Pete the Panther during their fall 2019 season. Photo by Bogenreif.

Connor Bogenreif, director of the pep band since 2016, used to be a member when he was a Chapman student from 2011 to 2015.

Band members can choose an instrument different from what they usually play. For Bogenreif, a cello player, he went with the trumpet.

During his membership, he said the band was always high on energy, ready to get up for early rehearsals and play loud enough for Chapman’s dorm residents to hear.

“When you’re in a setting where people are seeking this out to get up at 7 a.m. and scream at each other and have a lot of school spirit, it’s kind of an infectious thing,” Bogenreif said.

But getting up early to play music and scream isn’t worth it if there’s no one to do it with.

Pep band director Connor Bogenreif playing his primary instrument, the cello. Photo from the Chapman College of Performing Arts blog.

In past seasons, the band held as many as 30 members. But today, they need at least 10 people just to cover the basic instrumentation of woodwind, brass and percussion.

“It’s kind of had peaks and valleys in terms of recruitment,” Bogenreif said.

For a long time, the band was neither student-run nor a club, until the music department officially turned it into a small ensemble worth 0.5 credits in 2017 to help with enrollment.

“It was more than just a volunteer-for-fun thing; it was like, you’re actually getting something out of it, too,” Bogenreif said.

The pep band relies on word-of-mouth, but Amy Graziano says that a year of online learning and graduating senior members caused enrollment to come up short this year. Photo from the Chapman website.

But it’s more than just credits that make the band worthwhile. A 2016 study shows that college marching bands teach students valuable lessons in cooperation, leadership, responsibility and mental discipline.

These benefits won’t matter if the band can’t get their numbers back up. Amy Graziano, chair of the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, explained that the band depends on word-of-mouth within the music department.

“Students tell their friends how great it is and then those students sign up the next year,” Graziano said.

The pep band met virtually in fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 to perform at online recorded concerts in place of football games. Yet the band’s senior members couldn’t get younger students to join due to the online format and lack of sports.

However, the department has high hopes for next semester. After years as an adjunct professor, Bogenreif has recently taken a full-time position as the career advisor for the College of Performing Arts, where he has a better chance to spread the word of the pep band.

Graziano hopes that by the fall of 2022, the band will have enough enrollment to play for Chapman’s teams once more.

For now, the band can count on Cevallos, who plans to rejoin for his last semester this fall. He no doubt hopes he’ll see a few more faces in that classroom this time around.

Posting fliers, such as the one above, around campus is one way for students to promote Chapman’s pep band. Photo by Thompson.
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Nolan Thompson is a senior majoring in film studies and minoring in visual journalism. When he isn't writing, he enjoys going to the movies, taking photos and kayaking.