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What you need to know for 01/16/2018

Student-run pep band growing in numbers

Student-run pep band growing in numbers

The pep band in the corner of the bleachers wasn’t always a presence at the school’s sporting events
Student-run pep band growing in numbers
Scotia-Glenville Pep Band leader and tuba player Kyle Yaielski, 16, cheers as players are introduced at the varsity basketball game against Gloversville at Scotia-Glenville High School Tuesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Kyle Yagielski isn’t hard to spot these days at Scotia-Glenville High School sporting events.

“I’m the short kid in the kilt playing a tuba,” he said.

Indeed, there he was Tuesday night, in his tartan kilt and sash, crimson knee socks and Converse sneakers, blasting away on the giant brass beast from inside his high school gymnasium.

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At halftime, when the Scotia-Glenville High School boys basketball team was leading Gloversville 41-27, he turned to the group of three dozen or so fellow student musicians who stood in the bleachers behind him and gesticulated wildly. Horns, saxophones, clarinets and flutes were raised by teenagers in red blazers, fedoras and sunglasses. A steady drumbeat kicked off.

As the band broke into a rendition of “Twist and Shout,” the mood in the gym relaxed. Students got up from their seats to stretch, grab snacks from the concession stand or chat with friends on the other side of the gym.

The pep band in the corner of the bleachers wasn’t always a presence at the school’s sporting events. In 2012, a group of student musicians came together and decided that school events would be much more fun with a small, informal band to whip up the crowd. But it wasn’t until last summer that the group — officially the Scotia-Glenville Perfect Pitch Precision Pep Band — began to make a name for itself by showing up at games consistently.

“We decided to get organized and find people committed to showing up to the games,” said Yagielski, the group’s de facto leader. “When we started showing up and doing our thing, it seemed like the fans really liked it.”

The group — made up of brass, woodwinds, percussion and even an electric guitar and bass — is entirely student-run, said high school band director Allison Atchley.

“They choose their own music,” she said. “If they’re rehearsing here in the band room, I’m the adult supervision, but it’s totally student-run as far as music choices and their time commitment. I’m not leading their rehearsals or anything. Kyle has really taken the lead and he’s done a wonderful job. They have quite a presence in the gym.”

The pep band started out with about 12 members who played at boys varsity basketball games. In the past year, the group has grown to about 30 to 40 members who now play boys and girls varsity basketball games as well as football games.

Football coach Kevin Warren recalled a game last fall in which his players had to tough it out through torrential downpours. When halftime rolled around, he was surprised to see that the pep band was still there, whipping up the crowd with its music — and happy to do it.

“I saw that and I thought, these kids have just as much dedication and commitment as our athletes out on the field,” he said.

At Tuesday’s basketball game, Yagielski and Paul Riggi — a fellow tuba player who also plays drums — somehow managed to sway and dip to the music while playing tubas that can weigh up to 25 pounds. And when the band wasn’t playing full songs, it was offering up a drum roll here and a clash of the cymbals there for exciting moments throughout the game. During timeouts and near the end of each quarter, the band played a quick rendition of “Crunch Time” — a song performed by school marching bands everywhere.

At other games, the band has won over crowds with Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and the horn-heavy theme song from “Hawaii Five-O.”

“It’s just fun,” said Yagielski. “People like coming and playing with all their friends. Scotia isn’t the biggest school, so we all know each other and it’s nice to be able to go out and — even if you don’t necessarily care about sports — to just go and hang out with your friends is fun.”

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