Updates from the Alumni Association Chair

Happy spring!  We’ve long since emerged from the winter that forced Ithaca enthusiasts to direct would-be travelers to Florida (and crashed a site in the process), and I want to update everybody on the latest happenings in the Big Red Bandiverse.

The Advisory Council had its first meeting of the 2015-2016 term on Saturday, February 21.  As a reminder, you can find the membership of the Advisory Council – made up of the Alumni Association officers, student leadership,  and at-large members (as well as advisors and other folks) – here.

The issues discussed in the greatest depth were Pep Band travel expenses and guidelines, punch-list items for the Fischell Band Center (including both functional and aesthetic additions), and acute Marching Band capital needs.

The discussion about the Pep Band was long overdue.  Historically, the Pep Band has never been skipped a postseason trip that the students have wanted to take.  In some years, this has lead to great costs, and in other years… less so (if you pay attention at all to the Band budget, the silver lining of any athletic heartbreak is the bottom line).  Things tended to balance out over the years.  Over the last decade, however, the number of NCAA hockey appearances (and tournament games out west – thank you, selection committee), the rise of women’s ice hockey in both stature and popularity, and a consistently strong lacrosse team have created financial challenges.  A rolling playoff reserve system based on historical data was implemented about 12 years ago, but has never allocated enough funding over its life, resulting in excess expenses.  There is also the issue of student well-being, although admittedly, how onerous the repeated travel is depends on who you ask.  There was a lot of good discussion, and we reached consensus on our recommendations for regular-season pep band travel as follows:

  • The Pep Band will return to staying with the host band for at least some of their hockey trips (pending risk management approval)
  • Given the popularity of the fall Thanksgiving game at Madison Square Garden, we will explore options for paid performances
  • The Pep Band will take four non-playoff trips each year: Harvard/Dartmouth, MSG, and two others based at the discretion of the students

Additionally, we will start a dialogue with the various team coaches about the pressures on the Pep Band to explore other funding options at playoff time.  We hope that team friends and parents would consider offsetting the expenses to allow for uninterrupted support during the various post-seasons.  Our goal is to both reduce costs and increase revenue as well as provide a guideline and expectation for the Pep Band from year to year.  Ironically, the main cause of the issue – the unprecedented success of Cornell’s sports teams – wasn’t apparent this spring.  Cue sad trombone.

Beyond pep band travel, we also discussed fundraising strategies going forward (in addition to our usual routine).  The most important thing was Giving Day, which I’m sure you all noticed (and if you didn’t, you probably aren’t reading this anyway!).  The Advisory Council felt that the Bands were uniquely suited to take advantage of this as we have a robust online/social media presence already – the better to bludgeon your Facebook and Twitter feeds with #remembertheband.  Rather than bore you with the proceedings, here is the bottom line: the Bands received $24,059 from 185 unique donors on Giving Day.  This represents approximately 25% of all Giving Day donors to Athletics and Physical Education.  Furthermore, as of June 1, the Big Red Bands have raised $91,967 from 565 donors.  Thank you!  Can we make a push for $8,000 more and reach $100,000 in annual gifts for the first time in our history?

As a refresher – if you weren’t at the Annual Meeting this past fall – our projected budget was approximately $110,000 in income and $116,000 in expenses.  This  includes our typical reserve expenses of ~$21,000 for tubas, uniforms, and percussion (if you want an explanation of this, feel free to join us at a Homecoming meeting or contact me or Treasurer Brian Adelman ’09 directly), the relatively recent cost of $5,600 for a graduate assistant music advisor, and the very new cost of utilities and stewardship of the Fischell Band Center.  As I mentioned previously, the latter is more a product of the University’s new budget model than it is having a shiny new building, but both contribute.  We negotiated with Student and Academic Services to have a three-year phase in of the total cost, estimated at $5,000 in year one and $35,000 after the three year phase-in.  We are in constant discussion about reducing this charge as well as exploring other funding options. You may cringe at the idea of a negative budget, and I do as well.  It is by no means our common practice, but given the uncertainty of facility expenses as well as our history of our expenses ending up low, it was approved at the Annual Meeting this fall.

As we near the conclusion of FY15, we expect that our income will exceed our projections by around $30,000 this year (thanks largely to Giving Day) with expenses below projected.  Believe it or not, a budget comfortably in the black was the norm for many, many years, and it accounts for a large chunk of the funds we consider “endowment.”  Over the last decade or so, our budgets have run more or less even, and if the actual numbers to be tallied in July approach expectations, it will allow us to maintain the student experience immediately while also keeping some funds in reserve for unexpected expenses, years where income falls short, and a conservative reinvestment in our endowment.  Again, if the details are something you are interested in, let me know.

Then we went on about needing more raincoats (RAINCOATS!!!!), equipment tables and stuff that is even more boring than the updates above.  Oh, and hanging up old t-shirts and uniforms in the Fischell Band Center and making it look super awesome.  If you’d like to contribute to the latter – we’re talking a mix of vintage band memorabilia, murals, and various random acts of Red – let Rose (our illustrious Vice Chair) know.

That’s all I have for now.  I hope this info is of use to you, and if so, please join me at the Annual Meeting this fall.  If not, go on and read about conductors and Head Managers and stuff.


Lowell Frank ’99, ‘03

Chair, Big Red Bands Alumni Association