Virginia Pep Band

Virginia Pep Band

The Virginia Pep Band is a student-run band at the University of Virginia (UVa), officially known as The Award-Winning Virginia Fighting Cavalier Indoor/Outdoor Precision(?) Marching Pep Band, & Chowder Society Review, Unlimited!!!. In the tradition of scatter or scramble bands, like those at Stanford, Rice and the Ivy League, the Pep Band prefers irrevent humor and individuality to marching in uniform formations. Founded in 1974, this group of students served as UVa's band supporting athletics in an official capacity until 2003. The Virginia Pep Band has chosen to perform at sporting events typically ignored by marching or pep bands, such as swimming, field hockey, and ice hockey. The Pep Band has also performed at Charlottesville community events including the Charlottesville 10-miler, the Alzheimer's Walk, and the United Way Day of Caring.


The earliest appearance of the organization which became the Virginia Pep Band was in 1909, when the "East Lawn Chowder Society" appeared in the University of Virginia yearbook, "Corks and Curls". The East Lawn Chowder Society was a secret society that engaged in general tomfoolery, often involving their rivals, the West Lawn Chowder Society. Later, the East Lawn Society formed a band, which evolved over time into the current Pep Band. The style and appearance of the organization has changed over time; at some point it even performed a traditional marching band style as the University of Virginia Marching Band (this is why both "award-winning" and "marching" appear in the band's name). In the fall of 1974, the band adopted the Ivy League scramble band style, beginning the modern era of the band. In the early scramble-band seasons, the band did, in fact, march for the opening and closing numbers - in more-or-less straight lines. Marching was later abandoned entirely. The one thing common to all of the current Pep Band's predecessors was student governance - complete control by its members rather than University faculty.

The "Revolution of '93"

In 1993, UVa's athletic director Jim Copeland announced that the Pep Band would be run by a professional band director. In response, the band went on strike, and its leaders argued they were standing up for student self-governance. Called the "Revolution of '93" by Pep Band members, the clash with the athletic department garnered national attention. Columns and letters in news sources such as "The New York Times", the "Washington Post"cite news |url= |title=Taking the Pep Out of U-Va. Band's Step; Jefferson's School Exiles Its Irreverent Chowder Society |last=Jones |first=Tamara |work=Washington Post |date=1993-10-02 ] , and "USA Today"cite news |url= |title=Virginia's banned band plays on|last=Buckley |first=Taylor |work=USA Today |date=1993-10-06 ] addressed the conflict.

During the strike, the athletic department replaced the Pep Band with a faculty-run group called the "UVa Sports Band," a 24-member band which included several hired musicians. The Sports Band proved unpopular with fans, and was introduced at Scott Stadium only once (where it was resoundingly booed). During this game, Pep Band members protested on "The Hill". The athletic department reinstated the Pep Band to athletic events in time for the last home game of the season against Virginia Tech.

Current status

Today, the Virginia Pep Band operates in a much reduced role, after being eliminated from all official sporting events by the University's athletic department in 2003. At these events, the Pep Band has been replaced by the Cavalier Marching Band, which debuted in September of 2004. The new band is run by a professional band director and staff, as opposed to the Pep Band, whose director and managing board are elected from among its student members. The University of Virginia student council passed a resolution in February of 2004 asking for the cooperative "coexistence of two bands," both the faculty and the student run organizations.cite news |url= |work=Cavalier Daily |title=Student Council stands by Pep Band |last=Lee |first=Timothy H. |date=2004-02-04 ] Specifically, they asked for the Pep Band's return to athletic events, especially those where the marching band does not perform, but the Athletics Department has not acquiesced.

The Athletics Department cited several reasons for the change, including that football fans were uninterested in the Pep Band's performance, and that performances were occasionally regarded as offensive and/or inappropriate. For example, a halftime show performed at the Continental Tire Bowl in 2002 prompted West Virginia Governor Bob Wise to demand an apology from the band and the school for its portrayal of West Virginia residents.cite news |url= |title=Pep Band's Tire Bowl show offends WVU |last=Unkovic |first=Alexis |date=2003-01-15 ] The show's script was the result of student writing followed by Athletics Department censorship and approval, and is available onlinecite web |url= |title=Continential Tire Bowl Show |work=Pep Band Home Page |accessdate=2008-09-05] . The Pep Band was banned from future editions of the bowl. This prompted thousands of emails and phone calls to the U.Va. Athletics Department, some of them suggesting the elimination of the Pep Band and the creation of a university marching band.cite news |url= |title=Scrambling to their own beat |last=Mcardle |first=John |date=2003-01-22 |work=Cavalier Daily ] Pep Band Director Adam Lorentson said at the time that "cost is the key reason the University does not have a traditional marching band." After that obstacle was cleared with a donation from Carl Smith, Lorentson was proven right as the Cavalier Marching Band was founded.

Advocates for the Virginia Pep Band, including some in the Cavalier Daily editorial section, claim that there is strong student support for the organization and that the administration of the University of Virginia and its Athletics Department are exerting more control over something that was historically student-run.cite news |url= |title=Let the Pep Band Play |date=2006-01-20] They see the elimination of a "student run" band as a departure from what they consider to be the Jeffersonian ideals of self-government and freedom of speech that the University of Virginia inherited from its founder. They point out that all the scripts for their performances had been thoroughly approved by the U.Va. Athletics Department and, in the case of the Tire Bowl, by the bowl officials themselves. Some columnists downplayed the offensiveness of the band's performances; one Washington Post columnist wrote that the Pep Band was "banned not for the crime of political incorrectness, but for the potential to possibly, just maybe, somehow, somewhere, some day commit it."

Despite the ban, the Pep Band remains active, performing its traditional roles in Charlottesville events and supporting University of Virginia student athletes outside the jurisdiction of the athletic department, such as at club sporting events (e.g. ice hockey, rugby). On football game day, the Pep Band performs regularly for the U.Va. Alumni Association at Alumni Hall, as well as performing what they call a "pre-game scramble" for tailgating fans outside Scott Stadium. They also perform regularly for the Washington Capitals of the National Hockey League and the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball.


External links

* [ Virginia Pep Band home page]
* [ Friends of the Virginia Pep Band home page]

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