VOLUME 31, NUMBER 7 THURSDAY, October 7, 1999

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Mark Flynn is the director of UB's new marching band, "Thunder of the East." He has headed the university's Pep Band since 1996.

Flynn How did you become involved with UB's marching band? What's your "day job?"

In the summer of 1996, I received a call from Sarah McKoin, director of bands at UB, and she asked if I would be interested in directing the pep band. I accepted the position, but felt that the pep band needed more exposure. We did some extra performances in the community and additional performances on campus. Over the past three years, some students and Nelson Townsend, former director of athletics, were pushing to see some marching from the group. We started marching to the stadium from Baird Hall and working on some basic moves to get the band out of the stands and in front of the crowd. The big break came last year, when the band joined the Tonawanda Clown Band and performed on the field at halftime. As my day job, I have the privilege of being instrumental music director at Akron Central School. I direct three bands, two jazz ensembles and a marching band, and teach instrumental music lessons for Grades 6-12.

What has been the most challenging part of starting up a new band?

All of it. Recruiting, providing instruments, uniforms, a facility to rehearse in and finding a competent staff that would be willing to donate their time. Nothing of any use remained from the former marching band. We took on the challenge of recruiting band members over the summer, attending all the freshman orientations and contacting everyone who had played in the pep band the year before. We borrowed many of the instruments traditionally used by a marching band. Uniforms started off on the right track and then took a detour because of finances. The shirts and hats we wear are temporary until a suitable design is completed. The John R. Oishei Foundation got right on the band wagon and made a donation of $50,000 for uniforms. This support meant so much, it was the boost that we needed to know that the community was as excited as the students about the return of the marching band. Calatto Regal Tip Drum Stick Manufacturer from Niagara Falls was the next sponsor to get involved, supplying the percussion section with various sticks and mallets. The music fraternity Kappa Kappa Si took on the task of gutting the old locker room in Clark Hall on the South Campus and creating a rehearsal space. It works, but it's still in rough shape. The staff fell right into place. Their experience combined would rival any college marching staff.

Is the Pep Band still operating?

Yes. The marching band will transform into the pep band after football season. The marching band will split up and smaller groups will play at basketball games and other events. New students may join now as a club and enroll for credit in the spring through the Department of Music.

Are most of the band members music majors, or do they come from all backgrounds?

The band is about 1 percent music majors. I'd like to see more join and share in the excitement. As a member of the marching band, you share your love for music and your desire to perform. Music brings together some great people. The camaraderie shared between the members of the band is wonderful and really creates the school spirit that college memories are made from.

Were you in a marching band in high school and/or college? What instrument(s) do you play?

I went to a very small high school that did some marching for football games and local parades. I played in the pep band in college. I march with the Tonawanda Clown Band and have marched with the American Legion Band Post 264. During the summer, I work with Drum Corps International as a host for visiting drum corps. I'm also a member of the Genesee Valley Judging Association. In my profession I play all the instruments I teach, but trumpet is my main instrument.

What's your favorite musical piece for a marching band?

I like traditional marches. The national anthem is one of my favorites. I'd like to teach the marching band as many of the great marches as possible and use them in our pre-game routine. Also, as you'll hear from the band's repertoire, I really enjoy a great arrangement of a jazz or swing tune.

What have you planned for the homecoming performance?

We started off early in the week and took part in all the Spirit Week activities. Yesterday afternoon, members of the band led the academic convocation procession. Tomorrow night, small groups will play at various places on and around the campus to generate school spirit. On Saturday, we plan to march from The Commons about an hour before game time. We will march to the bull in front of Alumni Arena, play the alma mater and fight song, and then on to the stadium gate. Spectators are encouraged to follow behind the band and march over to the field with us. The pre-game and halftime shows will be similar to this past week. The band will do a very entertaining rendition of "Zoot Suit Riot."

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?

What can the university community do to get behind the marching band? Student Affairs, the Student Association, Athletics, the music department, University Police and maintenance all can say they were part of bringing the band back. Each has contributed to making the marching band a reality. The "Thunder of the East" is the pride and spirit of the University at Buffalo. The band serves the university and will play a major role on campus. Get involved. When band members do a chant, students and fans should do it with them. Fans should wait for the band to come by and march behind it to the football games and sit next to the band at the basketball and football games. The UB marching band is back and starting new traditions. Participate and be a part of something that students for the past 29 years were never given the opportunity to do. Come on down and add your thunder.

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