The Pep Band Continues to Play a Positive Tune


The pep band has been holding outdoor practices to accomodate for social distancing. (Courtesy of Taylor Mascetta/ The Fordham Ram)

October at Fordham University is normally a lively affair, with football, tailgates and homecoming weekend in full swing. Unfortunately, in the age of COVID-19, silence fills the empty fields, as most sports seasons remain indefinitely postponed. However, if someone happened to walk past Coffey Field on a Wednesday night, they would hear a familiar tune floating through the air. It’s the Fordham pep band practicing, gathered 12 feet apart across the bleachers. Sometimes they play their signature cover of “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums, and sometimes it’s the classic Fordham fight song “The Ram.” Either way, the band plays on, despite the pandemic’s dampening of campus life.


Chiara Giammatteo, FCRH ’20, highly anticipated her final semester as the pep band’s president and conductor, but she never expected that COVID-19 would affect the fall sports seasons. The Patriot League’s cancellation of Fordham’s 2020 football season on July 13 came as a huge disappointment to Giammatteo and the rest of the band. Now, the band is in limbo, waiting for news on the return of Fordham sports.

“We’d love to be doing something more, so it is kind of a bummer,” Giammetteo said. “But we’re excited about the possibility of one basketball game before the end of the semester. We’re crossing our fingers that we’ll be allowed to go.”

As of right now, the regular season for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have a tentative start date of Nov. 25, but whether the band can perform remains up in the air. The games will have a notable absence of fans, as the spectatorship must shift online to prevent a potential outbreak. The pep band plans to record its pieces in advance so they can be played during the games’ live streams.

In the meantime, the pep band continues to get together and practice. Giammatteo organizes rehearsals every week or so to keep spirits high and skills sharp. This year, the pep band added “Havana” by Camila Cabello and “No Roots” by Alice Merton to its repertoire, with plans to purchase more song rights soon. 

The pep band’s practices are normally a more social event, as members usually crowd the band room as they chat and laugh with each other. But now, the group must stay socially distant when playing. This distance causes issues with the timing of pieces, as members often struggle to hear their bandmates’ cues or notes beforehand. 

Despite the challenges, the members still make a lot of progress at their practices. Giammatteo was initially worried about general participation and low recruitment during these tough times, yet the band exceeded her expectations. The pep band members enjoy playing with one another again and using the time to improve their skills. Additionally, the band welcomed several freshmen this past semester, and the newcomers have already grown familiar with the band’s popular pieces. 

“I kinda thought that practices wouldn’t be feasible, but it actually really is. Everyone is willing to accommodate the changes.” Giammatteo said, praising the band’s tenacity. “They just like being together. It’s a tight-knit group, and they’re down to just practice even without set performances.”

The band is currently working toward holding some outdoor performances before the end of 2020. One potential performance involves holding a “hype event” to excite students about the men’s basketball team’s first game on Nov. 25. The band also plans to potentially set up on Martyrs’ Lawn and play for a few hours so people can stop by to hang out.

There are also many plans set in motion beyond the era of COVID-19, thanks to a beneficial new addition to the pep band’s extended family: Marlon Daniel. Both the pep band and the Fordham orchestra welcomed Marlon Daniel as their new director this year, and he has huge ideas for the pep band’s future. One of Daniel’s plans involves students from Fordham’s media department making a documentary about the pep band’s adaptation to the new reality of COVID-19. He also intends to schedule new performances over the course of the year and wants to enter the band into charitable competitions once the pandemic ends.

All in all, Giammatteo knows that even COVID-19 cannot impact the pep band’s love for music. In her words, she believes that “Live music is still really important, and you can make it happen despite the challenges. That’s what the pep band is all about.” Their optimistic, cheerful attitude toward the future inspires the entire Fordham community to hold the same outlook during these challenging times.