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Alumni Communications – the Path Forward

Mike Stuhlmiller

lowell-communicationsAs many of you reading this know, paper newsletters are becoming a thing of the past. For various reasons – most prominent among them a University-wide dropping of the practice – we have moved to fully electronic communications. With the rise of social media, there may be some questions about the what, when, and where of the Big Red Bands (the “why” is easy: because we say so).

We have devoted a large portion of the last two spring BRBAA Advisory Council meetings to developing a communications roadmap. The core of communications will be in a newly revamped (but not quite finished) website that will be located at Bookmark it now! The bulk of the content will be newsletter articles, and they will arrive in large content uploads twice yearly, with smaller uploads at the beginning of football and hockey season. With that sort of (in)frequency, we know you won’t be starting each day looking at the site; as such, there will be a blast email from Cornell (similar to what you received during the building campaign) alerting you to what is available. The website will be mobile friendly, which I hope will at least in part address some people’s concern that a newsletter is the type of thing you read while in the bathroom (don’t deny it). There may be smaller content updates in between “issues,” and we’ll let you know via email when there may something of interest to you. One important obstacle we’re working on is how to adjust your communications settings with Cornell so that you get those emails – obviously, if you’re reading this there’s not a problem.

The website will be structured as scrolling articles with links to jump to whichever post interests you. We will also keep contact info for Alumni Association officers, student leaders, sports schedules, and other things that are important but relatively static. In essence, webpage = newsletter.

This brings us to social media, and it’s kind of a mess. Right now there are four Facebook sites, including Cornell Big Red Band, Cornell Big Red Pep Band, and Big Red Bands Alumni–Let’s Go Red.  This is in addition to section and other smaller group sites, which people are free to run as they see fit. We tried as best we could to minimize the number of destinations, but they serve different purposes. Starting with the easiest to address:  BRMB historian is, essentially, the 21st century version of reprints. It’s an unfiltered photo dump of every picture of the band you can imagine. It is for the students, but feel free to poke around if you like. The two most important sites are Cornell Big Red Band and Cornell Big Red Pep Band, and they are “pages.” They are open to the public. The students update them regularly, with some input from the alumni officers. I strongly encourage you to like them, as this is where we will post official announcements (in addition to the blast emails). If you post here everybody else who likes the page may not get a notification (but you will when the administrators do). Lastly, there is Big Red Bands Alumni–Let’s Go Red. This was to be the victim of the bunch, but a small vocal group has protested. We’ll likely keep it around, but it will not be used in an official capacity. It is, in Facebook parlance, a “group,” meaning it is meant for frivolous discussion that everybody can see and contribute to. Clearly, this is an essential component of being a band alum, but please go ahead and like the two band pages as well. There’s also a LinkedIn group and two Twitter feeds (@BigRedMarchingB and @BigRedPepBand), but they are not as frequented now.

That addresses the “where” and the “when,” but not the “what,” and having a good communications system isn’t particularly helpful if your content is poor. Historically, Band Notes has almost entirely focused on the student experience. That will still be there, but what we hope to expand significantly is the kind of information that you care about as an alumni and supporter of the band that perhaps you didn’t as a student.  We are, after all, an alumni association, and you deserve to know what’s going on with a group that you have such a strong connection with. This means information on what big picture issues the band is facing, where your generous gifts are going, and how you can be involved. There should be something for everybody, whether you want to know what kind of music the band is playing (more Dr. Worm!) or how the band’s endowment is performing (charts and graphs!).  I think we did a good job with this at the fall BRBAA meeting, the presentation from which you can view here.

Most importantly, none of this is set in stone. The most important reason to have a clear communications system is so that you can chime in – let us know what you want to know! I hope this brings some clarity, and I’ll see you on the intertubes.

Lowell Frank ‘99
Chair, Big Red Bands Alumni Association

Big Red Bands Advising Update

Mike Stuhlmiller

At the Big Red Bands Alumni Association general meeting this past fall, I wanted to use the outstanding alumni attendance as an opportunity to bring people up to speed on some of the larger issues facing the Bands. One thing we talked about then was the tumultuous advising situation the band has been dealing with over the past few years. For those of you who couldn’t attend, I’ll provide a quick summary. I’m also happy to report that we’ve moved forward and have recently reached what I think will be an excellent solution.

Below is a rough timeline of the band’s advising situation over the last 65 years or so that was discussed in the fall.  Most alumni from the last 25 years or so will be familiar with the two-headed system that was in place: a music advisor who worked on, well, music, and an Athletics staff member who served as an administrative advisor. Cornell was not immune to the recent recession, and both of these positions were impacted. The Assistant Director of Bands, who served as a conductor in the University wind groups as well as music advisor, was cut in 2009. Similarly, as Athletics staffing became stretched, the responsibilities associated with advising the band became unassigned.  At the time, Matt Coats was the band’s advisor in Athletics, and while he continued to handle field scheduling and other similar duties under his purview, the support that such a large student group requires was lacking.

President Skorton, an avid supporter of the band and First Night attendee, admires our new facility!

President Skorton, an avid supporter of the band and First Night attendee, admires our new facility!

There were some stopgap solutions. We entered into an agreement with Ithaca College in which they would provide a graduate student to assist with music and performance aspects and we would financially support a proportional part of a graduate assistantship. Many of the administrative tasks, however, became fragmented. For budget issues, the students would turn to some combination of the Advisory Council and a handful of financial staff members at Cornell.  For travel, there was the Athletics travel office. Sue Detzer – herself reassigned to the ticket office – helped out in a variety of ways where she could. And on like this it went. Read More →

Financial Update

Mike Stuhlmiller

One of the important roles the BRBAA Advisory Council plays is ensuring the financial stability of the Big Red Bands organization year in and year out.  We work together with the undergraduate student leadership to ensure that band is in a strong financial standing for years to come, while allowing the current band members to enjoy a busy and productive year supporting Cornell Athletics.

Financial Operations Review

The bands have two primary sources of income: annual gifts to operations and payout from endowment. Throughout the course of a typical year, band alumni and supporters commit an average of about $60,000 in gifts to the organization. The majority of these gifts is donated directly to the bands’ operations, and is used within the year. In addition, the bands generate about another $40,000 in income from long-term investment payouts from the Cornell endowment.  The Bands spend about $80,000 each year on operations and $20,000 on reserve expenses, which is money set aside for long term purchases (such as uniforms, tubas, and percussion). The largest expense for both bands is travel, which, including playoffs, accounted for 55% of expenses in FY2013. At the end of each fiscal year, the bands typically break even, with any surplus saved to re-invest in endowment shares in the future.  These are very rough numbers.


The summary of the Bands’ budget is shown below. Read More →

Hey Baaaaand! It’s the Drum Major and Head Manager

Mike Stuhlmiller

michaela-alex-dm-hmHey all! We’re Michaela Olson and Alex Settle, the 2014 drum major and head manager of the Big Red Marching Band! I (Michaela) am a sophomore double majoring in Materials Science Engineering and drum major (okay, maybe I’m just majoring in Materials Science). I’ve been playing trumpet in the band for the past two seasons, and I served on the show committee this past year. I (Alex) am also a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering. Formerly of both the percussion section and sax section, I also served as treasurer in the fall. Our terms have only just begun, but we’ve already gotten involved in many wonderful opportunities, and also have some very exciting events coming up!

We began the year by performing at the opening ceremony for the brand-new Computer Science building, Gates Hall. Much to the chagrin of the brass players (well, specifically, their frozen valves), the march from Fischell Band Center to Gates was done in single digit weather, but the performance was a rousing success, and added Gates Hall to the list of buildings that the Big Red Marching Band has paraded through. A rather successful January day! Read More →

The Final Whistle: A Shout Out to Our 2013 Drum Major, Steve Albanese

Mike Stuhlmiller

steve-albanese-dm-2013Hello everyone! Last fall was an amazing season for the Big Red Marching Band. With the dedication of the Fischell Band Center and Coach Archer’s first time as Head Coach, this season was certainly an unforgettable one!

Homecoming was an unbelievable start to the semester! The dedication ceremony for the Fischell Band Center was such an important moment for the Big Red Bands and I am so honored to have taken part in that piece of band history. Although it literally rained on our parade, the band’s spirit was high and we were able to perform our Evolution of Rock show. Our victory over Bucknell also heralded the return of Cornell Victorious as the football team’s victory song, as well as a new tradition with the Football team singing along with the band. Read More →

Memoirs of a Marching Band Manager: Shelby Hulett Shares her Thoughts

Mike Stuhlmiller

shelby-hulett-hm-20132013: what a great year to be at the helm of the only REAL Marching Band in the Ivy League! Steve and I had the pleasure of leading the band through some truly ridiculous and amazing situations that only the Big Red Marching Band could find itself in. From a very rainy Homecoming to a tearful last home game and senior concert, every moment with the BRMB has made my Cornell experience special.

The season started off with a bang, with First Night appearances by Coach Archer, President Skorton, and the band’s advisor Mark McCarthy. After a few weeks of rehearsing and getting to know the new members, we gathered with alumni for the dedication of the Fischell Band Center at Homecoming. I felt so fortunate to be able to help plan such a special moment in the band’s history. The band toughed out the torrential downpour until the end of the day, when we gave a very soggy post-game concert in our new facility. Read More →

Managing Pep 2014: Michelle Yanda Takes the Stands after a Memorable Skype Election

Mike Stuhlmiller

michelle-yanda-pbm-2014Hey everyone, my name is Michelle Yanda, and I’m the Pep Band Manager for 2014! After being on co-op in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2013, I had a lot of catching up and learning to do as I transitioned into managing. However, jumping into the semester planning the Harvard/Dartmouth road trip allowed me to get acclimated really quickly (many thanks to Inky for being so helpful when I asked lots of annoying questions). As usual, the spring semester was busy for the Pep Band, but our conductors, Frank Gonzalez ’14 and Josh “JCS” Schupp ’15 led us with ease. The women’s hockey program did well this season, finishing the regular season in third place with 21 wins and making it to the NCAA playoffs. We had the great fortune to watch four past/previous members of the women’s hockey team play for team Canada and win gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi! Read More →

Co-Section Leaders to Co-Conductors: Frank Gonzalez and Josh Schupp Lead Pep Band

Mike Stuhlmiller

frank-josh-pbc-2014This past spring, I have had the great honor of conducting the Big Red Pep Band. This year, the men’s team did well and made it to the ECAC semi-finals in Lake Placid, and the Women became ECAC champs after a win over Clarkson! Playing for the basketball teams has been exciting. What has been a pleasant surprise has been the lacrosse team. The pep band first graced lacrosse as Cornell took on number 2, UVA. The Big Red emerged victorious and remains undefeated (knock on wood). But while the sports have been good, the band has been even better. Nothing at Cornell has come close to being as great an experience as leading waving my arms in front of this fantastic group of people. The very first weekend of our conducting tenure, the band split apart – the men’s and women’s hockey teams each had a pair of games against Hahvahd and Dartmouth. My co-conductor Josh Schupp (’15) stayed in Ithaca, with a small group that had returned early from winter break, while I took the bus to Cambridge, for my first taste of leading the band. Lynah East was chaotic. As usual, Hahvahd’s stands contained a sizeable percentage of Cornell fans. The crowd cheered loudly for each goal we scored, for each shot we took, for each cheer the band played. And I was terrified. But when we played the Alma Mater, that fear faded. Around the rink, alumni sang and swayed to the music, returning to their own days on the hill. Our hockey team won the game, which invigorated the visiting fans (us!). But to me, the atmosphere just showed the power of Cornell’s community, both in Ithaca and across the world. Other away games I’ve been to merely reinforce this. During the Cornell-Yale hockey game, I spent most of a period break talking to an alumnus from the early 80s, who reminisced about his time back on the hill. He had some song requests (Birdland), and asked about old traditions – did we still yell X at the opposing team when Y happened? Did the tubas still do Z at games? The next night, at Brown, Nathan Olson (’05) requested to conduct the Alma Mater, so I joined the crowd of alumni and their families. With those who came before me, I lifted the chorus. The Big Red Band emphasizes how past traditions influence even the youngest in Cornell’s community and that some things never change. Frank Gonzalez ’14.

Joshua Schupp conducts co-conductor Frank Gonzalez’s arrangement of “Radioactive” at the Harvard Game/Senior Night/Fancy Hockey!

The band plays the Alma in it’s full glory! Special guest appearances from alumni and past conductors!

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Hallie! Show Us Your ShowComm

Mike Stuhlmiller

There’s nothing like the rush of marching a show you created and then strutting off the field to the compliments of audience members.  Having been Show Committee Chair for two years, I really learned to cherish those moments.  This year we performed an Evolution of Rock Show, a Les Miserables Show, a Flight Show, and a Stevie Wonder Show.  It was my final marching band season and my favorite by far!

About five years ago, the band drill began to change drastically from the days of picture drill. We now write drill that focuses mainly on movement and geometrically interesting formations. Last year, Nick “Inky” Lamson ’14 and I started to push the band a little more with some harder drill and despite the expected objections, all the shows looked great.  This past season, Corey Chang ’15 and I chose even harder music and even more difficult drill.  However, the band continued to rise to the challenge, and the shows looked even better than last year’s.

Last year when we were writing our first show, the Latin Show, we found drill from when the band had performed Encantada many years ago.  One of the sets was the shape of a chili pepper, and the idea of making a shape like this seemed completely foreign to us.  We instead chose to go with an interesting geometric shape to start the show, and it turned out really well.  Since then, I’ve known that avoiding picture drill is always the right way to go.

I’m extremely grateful to those ShowComm Chairs of the past five years for blazing this trail for me and for future Show Committee Chairs.  I’m also very thankful to have been able to hold this position for two years, and even when band members gave me grief, I always found it extremely rewarding to see the band put on a great show that I created.

Hallie Klein ’14

The Big Red Band rocking it at the Hahvahd home game!

The Big Red Band rocking it at the Hahvahd home game!

Fall 2013 Shows:

Alumni at Homecoming 2013:

Evolution of Rock: Elvis Medley, Hey Jude, Carry on My Wayward Son

Les Miserables: At the End of the Day, I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own/Do You Hear the People Sing?/ One Day More

Flight: Fanfare for the Third Planet, Ascend, Reflections of Form

Stevie Wonder: Signed, Sealed, Delivered; Sir Duke, Superstition


Around the Band: Section Shenanigans!

Mike Stuhlmiller

The character of the band would be nothing without the individuality and quirkiness of each section. Here is a brief update on what happened this year within each section. Recent alumni: see how your friends are doing. Older alumni: check out where your section is now!

atb-flutesHey alumni! The Big Red Flutes had an AMAZING 2013 season! This past year, we gave Cornell great press- performing our hot dance moves in Canada, at the Montreal Alouttes’ game, and New York City’s Herald Square! The Time Warp remains ever popular along with the newer “Gangnam Style” in Everybody’s Everything. Meanwhile, in Ithaca, we performed at Relay for Life, and had our Spring Concert at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market! Everywhere we go, we obtain a fan base. The best story this year was getting a bunch of tiny Princeton hecklers to like the BRMB, and Cornell, through our charm and wit! Read More →

Life beyond Cayuga’s Waters…Alumni Beat 2014!

Mike Stuhlmiller

A small glimpse of how Cornell Bandies are making their mark on the world after graduating from the hill.  

The Fischells speaking at the Dedication Ceremony of the Fischell Band Center, Fall 2013.

The Fischells speaking at the Dedication Ceremony of the Fischell Band Center, Fall 2013.

Just Got Hitched: Tom Pasniewski ’98 married Katie Dankleff on June 8, 2013 on a farm just outside Lincoln, Nebraska near her hometown. A graduate of the University of Nebraska and a lifelong fan of Nebraska’s “Big Red,” Katie found the transition to rooting for Cornell to be an easy one and shares Tom’s interest in Cornell athletics. After spending the last 15 years entrenched in the Cornell alumni scene around Boston, Tom relocated with Katie to Lawrence, Kansas in the summer of 2013 to be closer to Katie’s family. Tom will miss the ease of attending Cornell athletic and other alumni events that life on the east coast afforded.

Another special day was March 22 which marked the marriage of Samantha Spindel ’08 and ’09 (flute) and Justin Musaffi ’08 (trumpet). The happy couple were married in Bethesda, MD with the wedding party including Trevor Goff ’08 (trumpet) and many other bandies in attendance. Near the end of the reception, all alums gathered to sing the alma mater. Dr. Spindel and Dr. Musaffi’s wedding was also featured in the NY Times and can be read here:

Big Red Drum Majors, past and present, pose on the ladder during Homecoming, Fall 2013.

Big Red Drum Majors, past and present, pose on the ladder during Homecoming, Fall 2013.

BRMB – The Next Generation: The classes of the ‘90s are creating the next generation of Big Red Bandies.  Johnny Chan ’97 welcomed son Ryan Desmond on February 15. Ryan joins big brother Julian in the Chan clan. Meantime, also on February 15, Kevin Wise ’94 welcomed another daughter, Allison Rose, making Emilie a big sister.

Moving up in the World: Jeff Anbinder ’94 writes “Only a few months after starting a new fundraising job with Seton Hall University in October, 2013, I was recruited by the American Civil Liberties Union to make another change. As of March 24, 2014, I’m now on the Leadership Gifts staff of the ACLU, back in Manhattan (financial district). I’ll be working with major donors and prospects in the DC/VA/MD area, small parts of the south and Midwest, and large parts of the southwest and California.”

Riding High: Stephen Jessup ’02, MS ’06, PhD ’11 is putting his degrees to good use.  “I have been teaching meteorology as a Visiting Assistant Professor since August at SUNY Brockport, and I will be staying here as an Assistant Professor on the tenure track.”

Many congratulations to our Band Alumni and all the best for the future! We always love hearing from our Big Red Marching Band Family so please don’t hesitate to share any news from your lives (marriage, kids, new job, dream house, etc.) with us.

The outgoing Class of 2014 and our incoming bunch of new band alumni at Nonsectarian, Fall 2013.

The outgoing Class of 2014 and our incoming bunch of new band alumni at Nonsectarian, Fall 2013.

BRBAA Profile in Cornell Alumni Magazine

Mike Stuhlmiller

The following article featuring BRBAA appeared in the September/October 2013 edition of the Cornell Alumni Magazine in the Alma Matters department.

Click here to read the original article

Club Spotlight: Big Red Bands Alumni Association

At Homecoming, alumni of the Big Red Marching Band and Big Red Pep Band will gather for a big celebration: the dedication of a new practice facility behind Schoellkopf Crescent on Kite Hill. It was launched with a lead gift from former members David Fischell ’75, PhD ’80, and Sarah Thole Fischell ’78, MEN ’79, whose children were also in the band. The new facility will offer more practice and storage space—and move the bands out of their home of more than fifty years, a cramped room in Barton Hall.

The Big Red Bands Alumni Association (BRBAA) is almost done raising the $1 million it needed to build the facility— a major milestone in that organization’s history, which has long worked to provide financial support for both bands. The Alumni Association was founded in the early Eighties out of financial need for the marching band. “When I was a freshman in 1978, the music department told us that within three years they would stop financial support of the band,” says Stacey Hunt Montalto ’82. “For the next two years we tried all sorts of fundraising options, but it wasn’t enough.” When Montalto was elected student head manager in her junior year—and facing the band’s potential dissolution—she took a huge step. Gathering all the financial data she could find, she presented her case to the Department of Athletics as to why it should support the band. “They had a limited budget, but they were able to give us money, and we became associated with Athletics,” Montalto recalls. “We were also very lucky because the assistant in that office was Georgian Leonard, who loved the band and took us under her wing. For the next two decades, she would do whatever she could to support the band. It was all out of the goodness of her heart.”

But the Athletics funding wasn’t enough. Luckily, former drum major Dwight “Duke” Vicks II ’54, MBA ’57, entered the picture. His daughter, Cathy Vicks ’80, was serving as drum major during Montalto’s freshman year; son Dwight III ’84, MBA ’91, would eventually become drum major himself. Vicks saw the desperate times the band was facing and rallied his classmates. With the aim of providing ongoing financial support, the Big Red Bands Alumni Association was founded in 1982, with Vicks as president and Montalto as vice president. With Leonard’s help, BRBAA began to work with students to hold phonathons, reaching out to alumni to ask them to support the band. “It was probably the first time a student group pitched its alumni for a major financial undertaking,” Montalto says. “To this day, the students still do it. And they know that once they leave the band, they will be expected to support the band the same way, so there is a natural evolution and financial support has grown.”

band alumni

Beautiful music: Band alumni got their first look at the new Kite Hill practice facility during Reunion, when they played together (left) and perused some vintage photo albums (right).

However, BRBAA knew that phonathons would cover only annual operating expenses and not long-term needs such as instrument and uniform replenishment. So in the mid-Eighties, it created an endowment fund. Chaired by Vicks, the successful campaign was launched with a 1989 Carnegie Hall concert celebrating the retirement of the band’s longtime music advisor, Marice Stith.

BRBAA has also taken on an advisory role, helping to guide the student leadership of both bands. “There’s an important part of BRBAA that is almost as valuable as the financial aspects,” says current president Lowell Frank ’99, MD ’03, “and that’s the empowerment of the student leadership— whether it’s offering advice and experience, providing continuity over the years, or serving as a liaison between University units. It’s challenging at times, because our involvement will morph each year as different students are elected to leadership positions, but preserving the student-run nature of the band is very important.”

In addition, BRBAA helps make sure that alumni are connected with the band and to each other. Since 1981, former members have been invited to play on the field at halftime of the Homecoming game. BRBAA also hosts get-togethers at road games or when the pep band travels. “We’re trying to adapt our communications strategy to get information out to our alumni and supporters in a more timely manner, through an evolving Web presence and social media,” says Frank. “We are also cultivating our relationships within the University to improve communication on campus, and we’re working on more long-term financial planning.”

While the band has come a long way—from its original status within ROTC to the admittance of women in 1971 to the new facility on Kite Hill— there is nostalgia for times past. But alumni know things need to change. “Many of us will miss Barton Hall; small, cramped, under-ventilated quarters do lead to a lot of bonding,” says Frank. “Still, many of us alumni are a little bit jealous of their fantastic space and the larger symbolic role it can play for the students. Their time, dedication, spirit, and sweat do matter to Cornell— and they should know that the work they do is appreciated.”

The Big Red Bands facility dedication is set for 11:30 a.m. on the Saturday of Homecoming.