Latest News

Conducting Down the Days: Senior Conductors Share Perspectives

Alumni Relations

IMG_0156Hey, band alumni!

It’s me again, Anita Mbogoni ’15. I’m a senior Biology & Society major,and I’m thrilled to be serving a second semester as Pep Band Conductor. Additionally, I served as Alumni Relations Chair and Clarinet Section Leader in 2013.

I could not have imagined a better final semester with the Pep Band! We welcomed a bunch of new members this semester (read: freshmen who realized that they missed band once marching season ended), and added a few new songs and cheers to our repertoire (hint: Taylor Swift and Shakira might grace the pages of our folder these days). As usual, the Pep Band was essential to the intense atmosphere at hockey games – including victories against Harvard and Union (senior night) at home and against Colgate and Union on the road during the regular season – and during the postseason for both the men and women. We also supported our stellar basketball squads, and look forward to traveling with our men’s lacrosse team as they begin their postseason campaign.

Whether we’re supporting the Big Red, playing a quick set on Ho Plaza, or performing Pachelbel’s Canon at a wedding, I’m constantly blown away by the band’s energy, enthusiasm, and spirit. Every conductor probably feels this way, but I have never heard the band sound better than it has sounded this semester. Sadly, I can’t bring the Pep Band with me to grad school, but I know that I’ll treasure the memories of this past year forever. The Pep Band is definitely the part of Cornell that I’ll miss the most. It’s been an awesome ride, and I’m honored that I had the opportunity to spend two fantastic semesters in front of such an amazing group of people. I can’t wait to come back and visit Ithaca as a band alumnus. See you (CU?) all at Homecoming!

-Anita Mbogoni ’15


Hey there, alumni!photo (1)

My name is Paul Jackson, a senior in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I’ve been the luckiest member of the band since I’ve been spending my last semester at Cornell doing something I’ve always dreamed of doing: conducting the Big Red Pep Band. I was the treasurer for the pep band in 2013 and one of the Sax section leaders in the marching band last year. I had a blast working in those positions, but I don’t think anything quite compares to leading the pep band at events and rehearsals.

I had to hit the ground running this semester, starting off with a hockey road trip to Union and RPI even before classes began. It was quite the rude awakening how out of shape my arms were at the beginning of a semester — working with Anita to cover 4 hockey and 2 basketball games each weekend was quite the workout! Even throughout the semester, the band has wowed me time and time again as they keep putting on a spectacular performance. With new songs like “Game of Thrones” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” introduced to the music repertoire, the band has turned heads in Lynah and Schoellkopf as we show off our fresh new sound while still keeping up with the classics.

I can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been and will always remember moments (both big and small) from this semester. I’ve loved each moment, from playing at Downtown Crossing in Boston before our game at Lynah East to having a blast at the band’s very first tennis match! I will sorely miss it all next year when I head to Princeton next year for grad school. Oh, if only they had a half-decent band…

-Paul Jackson ’15

The Old Michaela is Out and the New Michaela is In!

Alumni Relations

Hey, all! It’s me again—Michaela Olson, your 2014 and 2015 drum major! Emily has gone over all of our wonderful spring events in her article, and I went over all of the past fall in my last article, so I’ll keep this one (fairly) brief. As a refresher, I’m formerly of the trumpet section (and still spend a lot of time there for pep band!) and currently studying Materials Science Engineering. The band has been plenty busy with our regular spring activities (spring concert, Cornell Days) as well as an addition of sesqui-stuff (and I’ve been plenty busy with learning how to spell sesquicentennial) to commemorate Cornell’s 150th anniversary. Charter Day weekend is coming soon, and I’m excited for the band to continue to be a part of the big celebration.

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Head(Manage)ing on an Adventure: Spring Semester 2015

Alumni Relations

emily Hey everyone! My name is Emily Isenstein and I couldn’t be more thrilled to serve as theBig Red Marching Band’s Head Manager in 2015! As a flute in Marching Band and a horn in Pep Band, this organization has sure kept me busy over the last few years, and I can’t wait to give back to the group of people that has given me a family and a home here at Cornell. After serving as Fundraising Chair and Treasurer these last two years, I have a pretty good idea of how things operate, but I’m sure this year will be quite the adventure!

In March we eased the Band back into things with our annual appearance at Hotel Ezra Cornell, where we help commence the entirely student-run program at the Statler. At the end of the month, I was able to work with Pep Band Manager Henry to put on the Band’s first ever live-streamed concert for Cornell’s inaugural Giving Day! We spent a lot of time figuring out how set up the cameras, but the day was a roaring success and we managed to raise over $26,000 for the Band in a mere 24 hours! Thank you again to everyone who supported us!

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Managing Pep: The Good, The Bad, The Blizzards

Alumni Relations

Hello Beloved Alumni!ewww

My name is Henry Smith but everyone in band calls me Pinto! I am delighted to be the 2015 Pep Band Manager. A little about me, I’m a sophomore from the Boston area who is studying Industrial and Labor Relations. I also play trumpet in both marching and pep band. I’ve fallen in love with both but my love of hockey makes Pep Band just that much better. Coming into the manager position as a sophomore has its challenges but the band has been incredibly awesome on trips, at home and just in general. I have certainly been greatly helped by two awesome senior conductors, Anita Mbogoni ’15 (in her second straight conducting semester) and Paul Jackson ’15. They have been phenomenal in helping me where my youth leaves gaps and extremely cooperative in incorporating some of my ideas.

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Promoting the Band in a New Way

Alumni Relations

Hi All! This past year, a collaboration was born between two Publicity Chairs and a Historian to create an informational, promotional video for the Big Red Marching Band! Sarah Palmer ’17, Julia Cole ’17, and myself created this video as a way to give potential bandies a better understanding of what it means to JOIN BAND! As Publicity Chairs, Julia and I both encountered several common questions among prefreshmen and transfers alike. Things like … How is the time commitment? Do I need my own instrument? Why should I join band? Can I learn a new instrument? When are rehearsals? And so on.  Together with Sarah, we wanted to create something to direct attention, as well as to answer some of these questions.

Throughout the Fall Semester we gathered footage of the band at games, rehearsals, and in candid. Together with more formal interviews, we brought the video together this semester. We hoped to get perspectives from members from various sections and years in the band to create a general understanding of what it means to be a BRMB member! There were definitely struggles throughout the journey, but the end product is amazing! Take a look for yourself here:

We are very proud of our work and we hope the band will be able to use this video to attract more band members for many years to come! We hope you all enjoy it too.


Angie Estevez Prada ’17

Girls Just Want to Have FUNds: Pink the Rink Edition

Alumni Relations

Hello Everyone!

Sarah Palmer (Pefundraising2015p Band Fundraising Co-Chair) here to tell you the incredible tale of the band who dreamed, and succeeded, at defeating a hockey team.

The Pep Band stepped out of the shadowy section A and onto the ice for the annual Pink the Rink competition. Pink the Rink is an effort to raise money and awareness for the battle against breast cancer. The hockey team sponsors the event to help the student body get involved. Elizabeth Martinson (The Other Co-Chair) and I, both came to the realizations that as an integral part of the Lynah experience the Pep Band should make their presence known. We wanted to show how the pep band cares about Lynah and the important fight against a deadly disease. The Pink the Rink website clearly displays who has donated and how they compare to the others. The Pep Band was making a poor showing, several sororities were above us; it was embarrassing. Originally Liz and I simply asked the band to follow the links in our sassy emails to donate. We told them the prizes from winning the competition and hoped they would take the initiative. Soon we realized if we really wanted to make a difference we had to up the ante. We spoke to the conductors and secured a warm-up set for the Friday game. This formed another layer of competition between the sections, for a chance to pick three songs.

Pitting the sections against each other was the holy grail of fundraising ideas. Simultaneously we were tapping into the bands pride in the Pep Band, and their particular section. Like Monty Python and his knights the sections threw themselves into the noble quest. Liz and I made sure that the band was very aware of the standings of their section. Leaders were congratulated. Those who dawdled were playful taunted. “Your mothers are hamsters and your fathers smell of elderberries.” Not really, but we did have to overcome some French Canadians to win. Donations came in waves, usually following an email. Liz did a fantastic job of logging all the funds as they came in. The Pep band came out and represented our organization. Everyone who went on the fundraiser website could see the Pep Band proudly displayed. The competition got the bands blood flowing, but it was the overall display of altruism that won the day. This disease has affected many people and they converted their pain into donations for the cause. Liz and I never imagined that in a few days we would overtake most of the other organizations. Even once we passed them the Hockey Team still seemed like an impossible goal. They were a furry white tail in the distance, but in a flash this tortoise of a pep band overtook
them and crossed the finish line.

Liz and I are proud that as fundraising chairs for Spring 2015 we were able to bring the band into the Pink the Rink fundraiser and assert the band’s place in the Lynah Faithful.

-Sarah Palmer ’17

What’s the Big Intrigue? It’s 2015! Information for the Upcoming Semester

Alumni Relations

What a year! From Boston to New York, from Broadway to Pixar, we did quite a bit this fall semester. It was incredibly fun and we can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. It was a pleasure to meet you all.


Angie and Jeff!

Here comes the new year which means a new era of Alumni Chairs! Presenting your 2015 Alumni Chairs: Angie Estevez Prada ’17 and Jeff Crosby ’18.

We are both very excited to work with you all while keeping you updated on all the band’s shenanigans. Don’t worry, there will be more on us later.

Here’s what you really want to know:

The Big Red Bands Annual Phonathon will occur on January 21st and on February 4th from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00p.m. Keep on a look out for a call from a current member of the Big Red Bands during these dates. We love hearing from you! Your donations to the band help us continue on year after year, we really appreciate everything you give.

If you would like to give to the bands by alternative means, please feel free to follow this link. or contact our Fundraising Chairs Dara Canchester ’18 ( and Allie Bichoupan ’18 ( with any questions.

The Big Red Pep Band  is coming near you! We are confirmed to be traveling on the following dates:

January 17th & 18th at Union and RPI

February 13th & 14th at Harvard and Dartmouth

February 27th & 28 at Brown and Yale

Come out and support our Men’s Hockey team while getting the chance to spend time with our amazing Pep Band! There’s nothing quite like being a part of the Lynah Faithful again!

Let us know if you have any questions, we can be reached via email at and

Looking forward to a great year,

Angie and Jeff


A Farewell to Alums

Alumni Relations
our picture!

A Red-Letter Homecoming!

Greetings and Salutations Alumni!

This is Anjum and Emily, come to bid you farewell. Our term is drawing to a close and we feel the time is ripe to bring out our handkerchiefs, and get extremely teary-eyed in expressing how much we have enjoyed and cherished our time serving as your Alumni Relations chairs this past year. We loved meeting you and hearing your stories and experiences with the band. We are so glad and proud of the successful transition to the band’s new website and we hope this change to digital communication has been a smooth conversion for everyone. That being said, this transition is still a work in progress, and we welcome any feedback you have. 2015 is nearly at an end and with it, our term in Bandstaph. But never fear, a new generation of Alumni Relations chairs will continue our shining legacy to keep you updated on all the band news. It was a great year, and there are still many more to come!

-Anjum ’16 and Emily ‘16

Updates from the Advisory Council

Alumni Relations

Before I begin, I want to thank many of you who contacted me with feedback about the new website, communications plan, and content – it is sincerely appreciated. It has been mainly positive, but we can always do better, so please keep the comments coming.

I’d like to update you on the main issues facing the Bands and the Alumni Association right now. The nature of our group is to focus on how make things better for the band, and often that involves facing challenges. However, despite the negative tone that his might carry – and without sounding cliché – there is a lot about what’s happening right now that is really superb. I just got back from New York for the Battle of the Titans between Cornell and Columbia. The team in powder blue was slightly less titanic, and the Big Red pulled out their first victory. The band always wins, of course, but when it’s a comparison to Columbia, that’s like damning with faint praise. However, the students really did look and sound spectacular – the Pixar arrangements were musically complex and the field shows were really sharp. There are new (suitable for print) traditions including community service activities that integrate the energy and talent of the Pep and Marching Bands into campus events, showcasing the best of what the Big Red Bands have to offer.

Of course, one of our main goals is to do what we can as an Alumni Association to support and optimize the student experience. There are three areas that we will be focusing on in the short term. First, we want to turn our attention the Pep Band to deal with the unprecedented success that many of our teams have had. This mainly applies to men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s lacrosse. The unpredictable nature of these postseason events as well as the cost of these often far-flung trips makes planning and budgeting a nightmare. About ten years ago, we implemented a model with a fixed inflation-adjusted line for projected playoff expenses that was initially based on the previous decade of experience. Every silver lining has a cloud, and with every Cornell victory, we exceeded that budgeted amount almost every year. Given our history of support for teams, the option to simply not go to a deep round playoff game was never a realistic option given the heavily-invested stakeholders – the student band members, our athletes, alumni going to the games, and the Cornell community at large. Additionally, regular season pep band travel has also been at an all-time high (not surprising when the teams are good), further limiting budget flexibility. There are many other contributing factors, but the bottom line is that we need to have guidelines in place that incorporate some combination of number of trips, total cost, team quality, student enthusiasm, and playoff potential into planning both a regular season pep band travel schedule and which playoffs will be attended (unless other funding becomes available). Importantly, this will create realistic expectations for the student leadership, the absence of which has made year-to-year planning difficult. This was first discussed at the Alumni Association meeting in 2013, and I was encouraged by the consensus of the many people in attendance that a general plan should be in place. This discussion will be lead by current (and outgoing) Pep Band Manager Michelle Yanda and Advisory Council at-large member Kyle Preston. If you are interested in contributing, please contact Michelle, Kyle, or me.

When the band is not traveling, they have a beautiful new home in the Fischell Band Center (and if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for?). Like any large construction project, the punch list is still on going. One item is the installation of the permanent donor recognition plaques, but a larger component is – for lack of a better description – making the house into a home. Clearly, a lot of that happens organically over time and cannot (and should not) be planned. Still, there are elements of the band’s history and legacy that can be showcased in this space. Some of this is simple but requires some logistical planning, like displaying old uniforms and t-shirts appropriately. Some is more unique to the space, like designing the large photo murals that will adorn the ceilings. Some of it may incorporate some of the great research into our history uncovered by Kim Salsbury or some of the fantastic band-centric art by Lora Root. It is important that we get this done, because at our fall 2014 Advisory Council meeting (comprising students, alumni, and staff), the students made it clear that they feel like they can’t get totally comfortable until they know what space will be used for what (aesthetic) purpose. Importantly, this cannot be done exclusively by alumni, but similarly cannot be done without us, either. This effort will be lead by current (and future) drum major Michaela Olson with support from Sarah Fischell and me. Let us know if you’d like to contribute.

Lastly, I want to share what is our biggest current financial challenge. Over the years, even when accounting for money put aside for pending uniform and instrument purchases, the Bands have almost always run in the black. Even during the recession, your loyal support allowed the Marching Band and Pep Band to continue to thrive. Additionally, a decrease in yield in our endowment funds was mitigated by the purchase of more shares, keeping payout dollars roughly unaffected. However, on an annual basis, we are running far closer even than we ever have before. While FY14 concluded with a modest positive budget (the numbers are still being audited and will be included in the next content upload), expense increases will continue. These are fueled by two main items: increased travel costs and building operations. The first is due to a reorganization of Swarthout – our primary bus company – and has necessitated using other (more expensive) companies. The second is due to a major change in how the University budgets for all of its units. Previously, facilities operations were centralized and college deans (for example) did not have line items for building utilities, maintenance, and stewardship. That cost has shifted to them in an attempt to have more accountability. This affects Athletics (and therefore the Bands) as well. To be clear, this would have had a significant effect had we remained in Barton Hall, but it is obviously exacerbated by having a larger space. Because the impact is significant, we have negotiated with Student and Academic Services to have these costs phased in over a three year period (with FY14 being year zero). For FY15, we will only pay actual costs – that is, real expenses for heating the Band Center and keeping the lights on. The additional maintenance and stewardship costs will be covered by a combination of Athletics and Student and Academic Services funds with the Bands assuming these costs by FY18. This model is new to all of Cornell, and there may be some central operating funds that come with it, but we are still learning all of the details now. I’ll post more information as we learn it; for now, just look for the phonathon dates in January.

Lastly, thank you again for your interest and enthusiasm. Keep coming to events, say hello to the students, and let me know what information we can provide you with!

- Lowell Frank ’99 ’03

From The Head (and Heart) of Head Manager, Alex Settle

Alumni Relations

alex 1What a year this has been to be a part of the Big Red Marching Band! Being Head Manager of the only REAL marching band in the Ivy League has truly been an exhilarating, rewarding and humbling experience and I wouldn’t trade the opportunity for anything in the world. If you missed my introduction with Michaela back in the spring, my name is Alex Settle. I’m a junior in the college of Engineering studying Chemical Engineering, and I was the one crazy enough to put down my drums for a year to run this band!

This year, just like any year with the band, has been a roller coaster ride of excitement and hard work, but it was made even more exciting by Cornell’s Sesquicentennial Celebration! One of the most memorable experiences of this year and probably my entire Cornell career was the band’s participation in the Sesquicentennial Celebration Show at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. Working with the show’s production team, I suddenly found myself in the shoes of a New York producer/director, coordinating the band’s entrance, performance, and exit on an extremely tight schedule with just two performances (matinee and evening shows) to get it right. Unsurprisingly, the band stole the show and seeing it all come together was one thousand times more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. Before and after the show, some members of the band got to meet world-famous musicians and actors like Wynton Marsalis and Ed Marinaro.

This year we also had the great opportunity to play at Quincy Market on our way to the Harvard away game and of course the Sy Katz ’31 parade after the Columbia game. While bringing three buses into and through major cities like Boston and New York is never easy to coordinate, the results were well worth it. During my election speech last December, I said that one of the best things about the Big Red Band is having the drum major get up on the ladder in the middle of a huge crowd and shout, “For those of you listening, we are the Cornell University Big Red Marching Band!” At the time, I could not possibly have known how magical it would be to watch that happen as Head Manager. Plus, the huge crowds of Band Alumni coming to show support made those nights even more special.

From an especially frosty march to Gates Hall to a tearful goodbye to the seniors after the last home game, I would never trade my experience this year for anything. For me, band has always been more about the friends I’ve made than the music we play, so being head manager was not only serving the band, it was serving my family. And I’d like to thank tMichaela and alexhe band so much for sticking with me even through the unusual events that the sesquicentennial brought.

Luckily, I don’t have to say goodbye just yet! Since I’m a Junior, I have one more year to play my heart out with the band. I will be stepping down at the end of this year and returning to the Drumline. As much fun as I’ve had this year, I’m very excited to get back to playing the instrument I love in the best band in the world.

-Alex Settle, ’16


Introducing the New Alumni Association Officers

Alumni Relations

At the 2014 Homecoming meeting of the Big Red Bands Alumni Association, the following slate of officers for 2015-2016 was approved:

Chair: Lowell Frank ’99, ’03
Vice Chair: Rosemarie Potocky ’06
Treasurer: Brian Adelman ’09
Secretary: Scott Pesner ’87
Resource Chair: Nick Janiga ’00
Events Coordinators: Adam Drenkard ’11 and Lauren Mangano ’11

Four at-large Advisory Council members will be appointed. Please contact Lowell Frank if you are interested.

Describing this Swinging, Magical, Incredible(s) Season of Love

Alumni Relations

Hail to thee, our Alma Mater!

Hey, all!

Michaela here, your 2014 (and, as recently determined, 2015!) drum major. This fall was such an incredible season for the Big Red Marching Band! As it is Cornell’s sesquicentennial, the band has been extra busy with a bunch of extra events to celebrate our home on the hill. Certainly, the season has been a memorable one! First Night started off with an incredible amount of energy (seriously, I don’t think I ever stopped smiling), and was a dynamic welcome to the wonderful Class of 2018!

Our first road trip of the year took us to NYC to play in an event for the sesquicentennial. The band made a powerful appearance at the Lincoln Center, parading into the theater and blasting Davy and My Old Cornell for all to hear. The show also featured the Glee Club, a rather dapper Ezra Cornell and A.D. White, and the real star of the show (other than the band, of course): a miniature Hot Truck that drove across the stage! Along with that, the band made a guest appearance on the Today Show and got to see the Empire State Building lit up red and white for Cornell. Over all, a rather successful trip to the city!

drum majors

Too many drum majors, just one mace!

The first field show of the year was the Broadway show. Pregame featured memorable tunes from West Side Story, while halftime resounded with songs from In the Heights and Rent. The band then took the show on the road, performing it a second time at a rainy day at Harvard (but certainly, we didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits!). The night before the Harvard game, the band played a concert in front of Quincy Market—something that was extra special for me as someone who grew up just outside of Boston and dined at Quincy Market many times as a child!

The second show was performed at homecoming. Filled with dazzling trumpet solos, the jazz show was a huge hit! Georgia on my Mind was one of my favorite songs of the year, and the absolute wall of sound it created during pregame was a huge hit with the alumni. Halftime continued with It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing), followed by a crowd favorite, Emerald Eyes. The band finished the show with creating a giant 150 on the field in honor of the sesquicentennial, and all of the alumni soloists joining in created an absolutely amazing sound!

When the band returned from Brown, they enchanted the audience with the magic show, which featured Fantasia’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, themes from Harry Potter and Night on Bald Mountain. This show definitely contained the most challenging music of the year, but the band pulled it off with amazing flair! The final show of the year was the Pixar show, opening with driving music from The Incredibles, then slowing down with You’ve Got A Friend in Me and music from Cars.

This year also contained the memorable Sy Katz parade through the streets of New York City. With the melodies of Cornell Victorious still echoing in the air form the first (and, sadly, only) win of the season against Columbia, the band quickly made its way into the heart of the city to parade and concert in front of the Cornell Club. Standing atop that (extra) tall ladder and seeing all of the people there to watch is something I’ll never forget.

This whole year has been an absolute thrill for me. Life atop the ladder is even more incredible than I ever imagined, and I am beyond honored and thrilled that I’ll be doing this for another year. I know the season hasn’t even quite ended yet, but I’m already so excited to welcome the Class of 2019 (don’t worry Class of 2018—you guys will always be dear to my heart as well) into this wonderful family and only REAL marching band in the Ivy League!

-Michaela Olson ’16

Current students and Alums storm the field at this year’s Homecoming performance of Emerald Eyes!

Broadway show on the road at Hahvahd!