This article originally appeared in the New University on February 10, 2015 and has been republished with the author’s permission.
A familiar beat starts to play minutes before every UC Irvine basketball game. The popular UCI fight song, “Anteaters Go” begins and the members of the Anteater band start waving their instruments from left to right as the song continues. The audience joins in with the band when the drum takes its solo and the crowd yells, “U … C … I … Zot! UCI ZOT!”
The Anteater band is an integral part of UCI athletics that usually goes overlooked or unnoticed. They set the mood for every home basketball game. Without the band, a game would be awkwardly silent for 40 minutes with a few whistle blows and players’ grunts as they run up and down the court.
“We know that we’re very appreciated by the athletic department and they support us and want us to be at the events, but sometimes we just feel like an afterthought,” said second-year saxophone player Dianne Monchusap. “We put in a lot of time and a lot of effort into what we do and sometimes we just don’t feel as much appreciation.”
The hardworking band easily gets neglected by the fame of athletics. Basketball players are celebrated as celebrities and though the band is sharing the court with them, not much of the audience gives them a second glance.
Every Wednesday, for two hours a week, the Anteater band meets in MM228, the music department, to prepare for any upcoming games. This year, the band has returned to its becoming of a two-unit class, opposed to last year where band practice was more of a club meeting. Now, all band members are actively engaged in a class that takes place as their practices.
The band is made up of undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni and even community members. Monchusap has been playing for a band ever since she was in middle school. However, she says almost anyone who can read and play music would be a great asset to the band. One simply needs to have the willingness to play cohesively and the skillset is not that important.
In the band’s old playbook, they had about 60 songs that they knew and played. But this year, as the band was introduced to their new director, Brian Belski, they decided to refresh the book. They took out old songs that weren’t as popular and are still in the process of adding new songs. Currently, the new book is filled with about 27 songs and growing.
During games, the band reads the energy of the game and audience, which determines what songs they play. There is no set-list that they have memorized before coming to the game. Most of the time, they play songs that are most popular, as well as songs that the band plays well as a whole. Of course, the song most played and most recognized is the UCI Fight Song. The song that comes in a close second is “Holiday” by Green Day, as Monchusap says it is a requested come-back song amongst the members.
However, the band members would love to get feedback from more than just their own team. The band is very open to getting song requests and even critiques from both the audience and the athletes. For the most part, they don’t get much response to their efforts.
“I know the members’ opinions are very important, but since we’re playing for the audience and the players, it would be really cool if they would input some feedback. I know we’d be really open to it,” Monchusak said.
More than playing at games, the Anteater band has been called by Disneyland to play at their half-marathons. Every year, Disneyland hosts four themed half-marathons. This year, UCI has been invited to play at three of them. It’s a fun and communal time for the band where they can dress up and play peppy songs throughout the marathon for attendees. They recently came back from a Star Wars-themed marathon and are looking forward to their next one in May.
The band enjoys playing for all communities and hopes it is entertaining for all of their audiences. All are welcome to enjoy or join. There certainly isn’t one person who fits in or out of the band.
“People seem surprised when I tell them I’m a part of the band,” band member Taylor Lechert said. “But it turns out that there’s not just one type of person who fits into the band. We are a very diverse group; all having different majors, activities, interests, and backgrounds.”