The Magic of the Band: a Freshman Perspective

Freshmen are the life of the Band, especially this year, since they make up 50% of it. It’s really magical to see a band so big, and so spirited. There’s no question that this crop of freshmen is the best yet. That’s not to say that any other contingency is less important (or that it’s ever too late to join – rehearsals Tuesday 4:30pm in Woolworth!).  However, I think we can all agree that freshmen play a special role in lifting the spirit of the Band.

But what brought these wonderful people to Band?  Why are we continually graced with their presence? Why haven’t they run off to do other things with their amazing talents?

To answer these burning questions, I interviewed four freshmen, who each offer a unique perspective on what makes Band such a great place.  These lovely people answered my interview questions during finals period, which speaks either to great dedication to Band, or to great dedication to procrastination.

What brought you to your first rehearsal/Band event?

Recruiting is a big part of our efforts. I think it would be fair to say that we never stop recruiting. When I asked my freshmen pals what brought them to that first Tuesday, they each had wonderful answers.  Thomas Hansen (trombone), was bribed, and has this to say about the experience:

“Well, early in the year I came back to my room and found a pack of peanut butter cups outside the door with a note saying the Band had come by and wanted me join.  I remembered my parents saying something about not taking candy from strangers, but I’m pretty sure it was that it was an awesome idea.  After eating the candy, I felt like I had to drop by to say thank you, and that was the start of a year of fun.”

The way to a man’s heart is truly through his stomach. Delivering candy to our activities fair sign ups is a long-standing tradition.  Also traditional is our performance at Tiger Night, a performing arts group showcase.  Megan Kennedy (bagpipes/budding trumpet) recalls the experience with fondness as her reason for joining our ranks:

“I think I first decided to go to a band rehearsal after going to that show (I forget the name) at the beginning of the year with all the performance groups and seeing not only Alec dancing around with his ridiculous(ly awesome) shark hat, but also somebody bashing around a giant Santa claus and somebody else playing the flamingoes. Bagpipes aren’t exactly traditional marching band instruments, but I guess that’s when I realized that this is not exactly a traditional band. So I figured this was the place for me, and went to the next possible rehearsal!”

Attracting less traditional instruments has always been our strong point.  Also wearing silly hats, a proud and coveted tradition.  Perhaps most traditionally, we have recently decided to flout University policy yet again by scribbling with chalk all over the ground. Why? Because f*ck the police, that’s why. Actually, it’s because it brings people like Mary Gilstad (also trombone) into our midst, who claims:

“It was that crazy week and I saw as I passed Woolworth that there was a little message scrawled on the ground in chalk: band open rehearsal 4:30 THIS WAY.  I remembered that one night during preview when a horde of plaid things came in and seasoned my meal in Whitman; I thought they were cool, so I thought I would see what I could see…”

Of course, when all else fails, we could resort to sabotaging other musical groups’ auditions. We haven’t (yet), but maybe it would at the very least be entertaining.  However, even without sabotage, we managed to nab Eric Wang, who confessed under threat of tickling, “I came to my first Band rehearsal because I missed my orchestra audition (violinist) and always wanted to try my hand at drumming for a band (I drummed recreationally).” I find this hilarious.

In short, the Band attracts zany people through bribery, by disrespecting religious figures, by breaking school rules, and by posting incorrect audition times for PUO being that thing you always wanted to try.

Thomas Hansen ’15, trombone. Loves peanut butter cups and always remembers to say “thank you.”

What about that first event made you want to come back?

For a freshman, joining a new student group can be really nerve-wracking, and sometimes coming back can be harder than going for the first time. The fact that I continue to see my little froshlings is a source of great joy for me – so what brought them back?

The answers to this question were more similar, sharing many words such as “friendly,” “fun,” and “welcoming.”  I personally have always felt that the greatest thing I gained from band was a tight-knit group of fantastic friends.  It’s clear from the get-go that when you have a ton of awesome people together, awesome things will happen.

Megan put it very well, saying, “Band is such a welcoming environment – they (we?) are so deliberately inclusive in all of our gatherings and events, and even at my first rehearsal everyone was happy to come introduce themselves and let me know what was going on.”  She went on to note that despite the potentially intimidating nature of our “vast history of band traditions and entirely unique band etiquette… band kids seem to love nothing more than sharing those traditions with new members, which made them really fun to be a part of.”

Thomas agreed, noting that although meeting people is scary, he managed to have a great time in a group of total strangers. He says “at my first Band rehearsal, everyone there seemed very eager to say hi and wanted me to be a part of the group.” Eric said simply that he “had a lot of fun.” Mary wanted to keep coming back to band due to “the desire to make friends and the hunch that these would be fun friends.”

Megan Kennedy ’15, bagpipes. Learning to play trumpet. Hates Santa Claus and wants to see him dead.

What has your favorite gig been this year?

I asked our sexy interviewees this question out of curiosity, but there’s a huge caveat here: Reunions hasn’t happened yet! We all know that that would probably be everyone’s favorite gig. However, here are their favorites from the rest of the year.


“Probably the Princeton vs. Harvard home basketball game.  Everyone in the crowd was so excited and lively, and I felt like the Band did a lot to help bring that out.  We were loud, we were crazy, we probably screwed up at least one Harvard free throw, and we even got to be on TV for a bit.  That we actually won the game too was just icing on the cake.”


“My favorite gig so far was probably our first road trip to Hampton. I had never been on a band bus ride, and was vaguely expecting people to sleep, watch movies, do homework, or stare out the window the whole ride there. I don’t think I could possibly have been further off the mark – there was singing and charging and outrageousness of every imaginable variety. Then the football game was fun, and the Hampton band was totally boss, and we stopped at the Capitol, which was entirely unexpected, and blew my mind. First time ever playing with the band, and I get to play on the Capitol of the United States. Pretty sick.”


“I didn’t go to it, but the Puppy Parade looked really fun. The football season was also great, and so my favorite “gig,” if you could call it that, was the first time I marched out on the field playing.  It was absolutely overwhelming.  The other bones were so nice though.”


“Probably the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade because it felt so rewarding at the end. Also the football game versus Columbia, because we pulled off our only win (YAY) of the season and it was also at home, hence fountain gig!”

Mary Gilstad ’15, and some other guy that I’ve never seen before. She plays trombone. I guess that other guy does too.

Why do you like being in band?

This question is a bit similar to the second, so it’s no surprise that the answers would be similar, too.

The main conclusion here is that the Band is a wonderful community, where awesome friendships abound. As Thomas puts it:

“Being in Band means that there are loads of super-fun people who I get to see on a regular basis and hang out with while making music and heckling goalies. I go to Band events to be with my friends, and there are so many people in Band that I often end up making new friends.  It’s a self-reinforcing cycle which movies have taught me are dangerous, but this one ends with happiness and a sense of belonging to a great group of friends rather hyper-intelligent robots enslaving the human race.”

Fear of the singularity aside, that answer gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Mary gets at another wonderful aspect of Band membership, the music:

“I like being in band because I like group music making, I would like to not have a strict commitment that might make me unable to audition for plays, which is something I planned to do when I got here, and I like the other lovely members.  We look fantastic in our orange blazers and I have a hope that we really do raise the spirits of our fellow Princetonians or anyone else who happens to see us.”

I hope we do, too.  Megan’s answer, I think, sums up my feelings as well about Band:

“Uhhh why would anyone not like being in band? Fo serious. I just love the atmosphere of our band. For once, at Princeton, people stop taking themselves way too seriously, let go, and partake in some good old-fashioned, just-for-fun, shenanigans. Not to mention the fact that we basically epitomize Princeton pride with our unashamedly bold and beautiful orange-n-black plaid. I think my favorite part though, is the fact that you truly develop a sense of belonging. People remember your name, even if you’re just a freshman at your first rehearsal, and are genuinely supportive and glad to have each and every member. It’s basically the shit.”

Eric Wang ’15. He plays quads and is also an exotic dancer. Why he likes Band: “I like banging drums and the people are nice.”

Conclusion: Freshmen are Awesome and So Can You

I hope you enjoyed reading these responses as much as I did. See you at Reunions!

<3  Nicole Rafidi ’12 PExDMxFLL

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