So the Music Never Stops

Tom O’Connor, a super supporter of UB’s “Thunder of the East,” shows off his drumming skills along with members of the band in UB Stadium.

“It’s an experience you can’t describe,” says UB Marching Band Director Jim Mauck, trying to explain how it feels to be in the band. “You’re part of this big, organic, dynamic machine—and you can’t do it by yourself.”

A world-class band needs everyone working toward a common goal—including supporters. That’s why Tom O’Connor, BS ’75, and other like-minded donors “banded together” to create the Marching Band Endowment Fund.

If you’re a UB Bulls fan, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a football or basketball game without the “Thunder of the East” (as the band is known) revving up the crowd. When they’re not performing, students in the band—which includes the Dazzlers Dance Team, Color Guard and Pep Band—spend hundreds of hours each year practicing their craft.

While the students are making music, they’re also making memories. “It’s really like joining a family,” says former tuba player Rami Cesar, BA ’20. Being in the band builds confidence, and helps students prepare for successful careers. “Marching Band definitely gave me the leadership skills I need to enter any kind of workplace,” says senior Lizzy Goldrick.

Photo of UB Band trumpet players.

UB's Thunder of the East Marching Band

The band, which is open to students from all majors, is also a vital part of student life on campus. “The band captures the incredible spirit, pride and tradition that we love about UB,” says Christina Hernandez, interim vice president for Student Life. “Band students are some of the best ambassadors for the university.” The band also helps attract and retain undergraduates, since research shows that students who are involved in campus programs such as band are more likely to persist and graduate from UB.

Ultimately, O’Connor—a former percussion player—wants the band to compete as one of the top in the country. (“Why not?” he asks, in his characteristically optimistic way.) The endowment will support this goal by providing a perpetual source of funding for instruments, uniforms, scholarships and other crucial resources.

Looking back on his formative time in the band, O’Connor is even more excited about what lies ahead.

“It’s time to pay it forward,” he says. Giving to UB lets O’Connor and fellow friends of the band share their passion, stay connected to the university they love, and provide an unforgettable experience for hundreds of students.

A band is most powerful when everyone is playing together as one—a lesson that O’Connor has clearly taken to heart. Today, he is part of a team of visionary donors who are combining their efforts to achieve remarkable results.