Still peppy: UVA's contra-band lives on
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the athletics department doesn't want them around anymore. But that isn't the issue to members of the Virginia Pep Band.
The issue is living in the here and now.
"We're going to continue doing what we've done for 30 years in support of University of Virginia fans and the UVA community," says Pep Band director Rebecca Louie.
This should be a year of celebration for the Pep Band, 30 years after its 1974 founding. The Virginia House of Delegates passed a resolution earlier this year marking the anniversary, but the state Senate failed to act on the commendation– a sign o' the times. The band has been on the outs with UVA administration since a controversial performance at the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte.
The halftime show at the bowl game pitting UVA and West Virginia included a skit based on the reality-television show The Bachelor in which a UVA student (a.k.a. "The Bachelor") narrowed his field of bachelorettes to a Virginia and a WVU coed.
West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, among others, was upset that the Pep Band member portraying the WVU student wore blue overalls and pigtails, and said that her plans included "heading out to California ... Beverly ... Hills, that is ... swimming pools ... movie stars ...."
"This type of performance merely perpetuates the unfounded stereotypes that we in West Virginia are fighting so hard to overcome," Wise wrote in a December 30, 2002, letter to UVA president John T. Casteen, characterizing the show as "conduct unbecoming of the University of Virginia."
Although the UVA rector laughed off the incident, it touched off a chain of events including an allegedly unintentional lockout of the Pep Band from its equipment room just as a UVA alum announced he was donating $1.5 million to jumpstart the creation of a marching band.
"The reaction floored us," says Louie, now a fourth-year biochemistry major. "We had gotten that script approved like we were supposed to, and they'd given us the thumbs-up."
Louie says band members had noticed in the months leading up to the Bowl game that athletics department officials were keeping them at arm's length.
"We kind of noticed the resistance from the athletics department– at least I did. That's why we made it a point to cross our t's and dot our i's by doing things like getting our scripts approved in advance and making sure that everything we did was in line with what they expected of us," Louie says.
That's all water over the dam now, of course, as the new Cavalier Marching Band is set to debut at Virginia's September 11 home opener against North Carolina.
The Pep Band, meanwhile, is working on a schedule of appearances including a 30th-anniversary performance on the Lawn later next month.
As far as not being a part of game-day at Scott Stadium, "It's not our call," Louie says.
"If the athletic department wants to go this route, that's up to them. But we're not going to let them stop us from doing what we've done for three decades to show our support for the University of Virginia community," she adds.
"We're going to do what we've always done to support UVA fans. We just have to find different ways to do it," Louie says.
Pep Bandsters, clockwise from hatman Brian Kidd: Nora Bungard, James Maxwell, Rebcca Louie, Ginny Chilton
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO