For the Last Time: Notes from the Alumni Association Chair

I’m going to start off with the biggest news I have (for me, anyway): this is the last BandNotes article I’ll be writing as Chair of the Big Red Bands Alumni Association. On one hand, this is not a big deal. BRBAA, for all the passion of our alumni, is but one small instrument to help the students run The Only Real Marching Band in the Ivy League. On the other hand, I’ve been doing this for a heck of a long time, so please indulge me for a moment while I reflect a bit on where the Alumni Association is and where it is been. But before that, first a few words on where we are going: at the September 22, 2018 Homecoming annual meeting of the BRBAA, the 2019-2020 slate of officers was approved. Your new officers will be:

Chair: Brian Adelman ’09 (formerly Vice-Chair)
Vice-Chair: Tom Seery ’09 (formerly at-large member)
Treasurer: Adam Mangano Drenkard ’11 (staying on)
Resource Chair: Nick Janiga ’00 (staying on)
Secretary: Michelle Yanda ’15 (staying on)
Events Coordinator: Emily Isenstein ‘16 and Cameron Glass ’13 (staying on and former at-large member)

Additionally, Brian will appoint four at-large members to the Advisory Council, which includes alumni and student leaders as well as Cornell staff. You can reach out to Tommy or Brian if you are interested in serving in this capacity. Having worked with these loyal bandies – many as both student leaders and later alumni volunteers – I’m excited about the work they will do supporting and empowering the next generation of students as well as connecting with alumni who want to reminisce about their time on the hill.

As for where we are now, I’ll start with a focus on our finances. At our Homecoming meeting, we reviewed our FY18 finances and approved our FY19 budget. FY18 was a good year, with income of $181K exceeding our budgeted income of $170K. Our expenses were favorable to budget, coming in at $23K under the projected $170K for a $23K net profit. As always, that excludes an additional $21K reserved for uniforms, tubas, and percussion, resulting in a FY18 cash flow of $44K. The $23K profit was obvious great to see, but there was a nearly identical deficit the previous year, so it was needed. For FY19, we projected $174K of income and $164K of expenses for a net profit of $10K. This includes the typical $21K of reserve funds budgeted for uniforms, tubas, and percussion; however, the tubas and the percussion have lasted longer than we initially budgeted. One could adjust the reserve expense lower and have a larger profit projected, but we chose to budget conservatively as we did not yet estimate costs. A point worth noting is that income from the LTIP (“endowment”) is projected to rise from $58K to $63K despite a decrease in per-share payout from Cornell. This is largely due to increased funding of the endowment for Fischell Band Center operations. Trends in LTIP value, LTIP shares, LTIP payout/share, and Expenses/Gifts/LTIP payout are shown in the accompanying graphs.





While financial stewardship is a large part of what BRBAA does, it is not all of it. As the advising situation has evolved over the last two decades, the Alumni Association leadership has taken on varying amounts of advisory roles. We have been fortunate to work more closely with Athletics over the last few years through our work with Steve Caraher. Steve will be leaving Cornell to pursue other career opportunities. We are lucky to have had his development expertise, dedication to the students, and steady approach to the Bands during his tenure.
Megan Ramey will be replacing Steve as our Athletics advisor. Megan has a coaching background and has been working in Athletics operations for the past few years. She is eager to work with students again, and has already seen – and enjoyed! – the spirit, energy, and inclusivity that the Bands represent. This last point is key, as you may be aware of an increased scrutiny on hazing throughout the Cornell community. We spent a fair amount of time discussing this at both the Advisory Council and Annual meetings. I think we are all aware of some colorful traditions that the Bands have that may not be fully understood by outside observers. While I firmly believe that no Bandie should ever be forced to do something they are unwilling to do, the definition of hazing in today’s environment specifies that hazing may still occur even if participants are willing. We feel that there is a lot of ambiguity in the definition, especially as many traditions that are intrinsic to the personality of the band are outside of simply marching and playing music, thus making them subject to increased scrutiny. There have not been any major repercussions, but certainly this is a situation that warrants ongoing discussion. I’ve been particularly impressed with how Becca Rodell, Katherine Curtis, and Zach Brothers (the Head Manager, Drum Major, and Pep Band Manager) have navigated this new landscape while keeping things fun for the students.
That sums up the future and present of the BRBAA. I’d typically sign off with some trite band joke here, but in lieu of that, I’d like to run through a list of Band and BRBAA highlights over the last 16 years. There are too many people to thank to name them all, so I’ll just say thank you to all the students and alumni who have dedicated their energy to allowing the Big Red Bands to thrive over the past 16 years I’ve been involved in the Alumni Association. I’ve seen the return of the Quincy Market concert after alumni shared how great it was with students; the start of the Herald Square concert in NYC for those non-Sy Katz years. We’ve worked with multiple staff advisors and helped the band transition to a music graduate student advisor when Music Department support was no longer available.
Seeking to better our alumni relations, we’ve transitioned to electronic newsletters, collaborated more closely with Alumni Affairs and Development, and maintained a steady and useful website. We continue to work with the University and regional offices and have taken on an important planning role in the Sy Katz parade. We’ve focused annual BRBAA meetings to once-yearly, and changed the format to an informative presentation with focused discussions rather than just repeating the agenda from the Advisory Council meetings. We’ve moved these meetings to Saturday mornings to better integrate into game day festivities and bring the meeting to you.
On the financial front, we’ve consolidated formerly simplistic separate Marching and Pep Band budgets into a comprehensive financial document that allows for a better understanding of our overall fiscal health; this has allowed for better Pep Band playoff planning, a consolidation of endowments, the conversion of non-interest-bearing accounts to LTIP, and active reinvestment in the LTIP by the Advisory Council (leading to higher endowment value and annual payout). All of this helped withstand a massive economic impact with little effect on the operations of the Bands. We’ve completed multiple uniform, percussion, and tuba acquisition cycles. We’ve been leaders in Athletics and at the University level in engaging alumni on Giving Day, which has lead to an increase in annual gifts to the Bands to nearly $100K each year and culminated in the Big Red Bands Alumni Association winning the 2016 Cornell Alumni Association Cup. Most impressively, we’ve helped the Band through one of the most significant changes in the past few decades, the construction of and move into the Fischell Band Center. Its existence is possible because of the passion, dedication, and generosity of so many alumni.
I’ve been a part of the Big Red Marching Band, Big Red Pep Band, and Big Red Bands Alumni Association essentially continuously since 1995. I’m honored to have been a part of all of this, a bit saddened to leave it behind, and excited to come back (without responsibility!) and see what the future holds for the Bands. As always, GO RED, DAMMIT!

Lowell Frank ’99, ’03