ST. BONAVENTURE, NY -- Five years ago, the St. Bonaventure University Athletics Department cut the basketball's pep band, leaving strangers adorned in Bona’s gear playing songs during Atlantic-10 tournaments.
This year, the musicians at those A-10 tournament games won’t be strangers. They will be the 15 or so Bona's students under the direction of Tim Dyet, a musician with extensive pep band background. This season, Dyet has directed the group at every men’s and women's basketball game, bringing an old tradition back to the Reilly Center.
Thanks to a fundraiser launched by the athletic department and a video created by Goo Goo Dolls bassist and Buffalo native Robby Takac, alumni and supporters raised over $25,000 for the band. The money will help the band travel to, stay and play at the A-10 men’s basketball tournament in Brooklyn, New York this spring.
“I remember being at A-10s last year in D.C. and we were the only school in the conference that didn’t have a pep band,” Jasmine Clasing, a saxophonist in the pep band, said. “We actually paid another school to wear Bona’s T-shirts and play for us. It drove me crazy."
Clasing, a senior sociology major, spent her earlier years at St. Bonaventure,hoping for a pep band.
“Live music always gets people hyped up. Music directly touches your emotions,” Clasing said. “Your energy is already up if you are at a Bona’s basketball game, but having the extra music there is even better.”
The origins of the pep band go back to the Nicholas Devereux Military Cornet Band, created in 1876. That band evolved into the St. Bonaventure marching band and eventually, a pep band was formed in 1968. Except for a gap in 1978, the pep band played season after season until the athletics department shut it down in 2013, citing a lack of numbers. NCAA Division I school pep bands rarely held less than 25 members, and Bona’s pep band fell short at around 17 members.
In 2018, the numbers are even smaller, but the tradition has been revived.
“We are happily letting anyone interested join. It doesn’t matter how much or little experience you have,” Dyet said. “In just a few weeks I had players coming in with little experience, and now they sound like they have been playing for years."
Dyet, who had no connections to St. Bonaventure before being hired, brings a lot of experience to the band. He played in the pep band for Canisius College hockey games while he was still in high school. As an undergraduate, he joined the Mansfield University Marching Band, and, after transferring to Nazareth College, played in its brand-new pep band. After graduating from Nazareth, Dyet became an adjunct professor of jazz at Niagara County Community College and, eventually, a substitute organist for the 2017-2018 Buffalo Sabres season.
“A pep band to me is an extension of the biggest fans in the arena,” Dyet said. “We read the crowds and the state of the team and from that we select some great musical hits to keep everyone amped up!”
The band practices every time it wants to introduce new music to the group. Members report their favorite songs are “Devil in the Blue Dress,” “Black and White Rag,” and the most popular song in the Reilly Center, “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
Dyet said, "I am open to being contacted by any means for information about the pep band, song requests, or any other questions. St. Bonaventure has hired me to bring a tradition to the Reilly Center, and I want to make this pep band something to be proud of.”