Published March 17, 2016
PROVIDENCE — The lucky 30 raced off the bus. They couldn’t get outside fast enough. They stretched, grabbed their bags and posed for pictures.
It was a seven-hour bus ride from Buffalo to Providence — a long seven-hour ride, according to band member and UB senior John Kinney — but the trip was finally over and it was well worth it.
“The bus was hot and I’m starving, but there is really nothing I would rather do during my spring break than represent UB and play in the band during March Madness,” Kinney said. “It’s a historic thing to be a part of and we are really privileged.”
Turns out the NCAA tournament is not just a national stage for the basketball teams playing on the hardwood, but it’s also an opportunity for major exposure for the bands playing in the stands.
Just this fall, Kinney said, several freshmen pointed to the Bulls’ trip to the dance last season as a “tipping point” in their decision to come to UB. Seeing a university’s band on television, he said, helps tremendously with name recognition and this year’s freshman band members are living proof of that.
“It obviously wasn’t the only reason they came here, but many freshmen who were between a few schools said seeing UB’s band on TV last year, — knowing they wanted to be a member of the band — helped sway them,” Kinney said. “They wanted a chance to play in that kind of event.”
Samantha Riedener has seen the band come a long way. She is an alum, but made the trip to play with the band today. Riedener used vacation days at work because she “wouldn’t miss this,” she said.
The band could only take about 30 members to Providence, which is half the group, she said. It wasn’t always this popular.
“Having a successful athletics program over these last couple years has certainly led to more and more people wanting to join,” Riedener said. “It’s a great thing for the entire school when teams do well and the band is certainly a big benefactor. It’s so exciting.”
Riedener headed to Cleveland last Friday right after work to join the band for the MAC semifinals and championship game. She then told her boss she would be out of work Tuesday through Friday.
Chris Dobmeier, a UB sophomore, canceled a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach this week to be in Providence.
“It was an easy decision,” he said. “I happily shut those plans down because nothing can compare to how cool this experience is. Being at the greatest tournament in the world, the most popular; nothing compares to the excitement.”
Dobmeier, a Niagara Falls native, said he was able to spend one day at home with his family before returning to campus to make the trip to Providence.
He was at the tournament last year and said the experience was special. He received about 100 texts from friends and family members with pictures of the back of his head taken from the television broadcast.
“There was not much recognition of the band until recently with athletics and it really adds a whole lot to the college experience for all of us,” he said. “It’s so cool to say you were on TV and played at the highest level. I’m two for two with tournaments, so I have high expectations.”