The band behind the mayhem
Dr. John Martin leads the GVSU spirit band during the basketball games. GVL / Hannah Mico.
They attend each of the women’s and men’s basketball games, belting out the Grand Valley State University fight song and cheering the teams on with a unique type of energy.
The Laker basketball Pep Band is part of the band program at GVSU and has been providing musical entertainment for more than three decades. The band has been directed by John Martin, director of athletic bands, since 2009. Members of the group get to enjoy basketball games with the added benefit of playing music with their friends.
“My experience has been incredible,” said band member Gayle Ebben. “Joining marching band and pep band has been without a doubt the highlight of my college career.”
Before coming to GVSU, Martin attended the University of Southern Mississippi and was a director at the University of Tennessee. Now he is the assistant director of bands and also teaches music education courses.
“The best thing that I love about it without a doubt is the interaction with students,” Martin said. “This school is so student-orientated, and it flows from President Haas all the way down.”
Martin said that although the pep band hasn’t grown number-wise since he began directing, its quality has greatly improved, and he would rank Pep Band with the likes of University of Michigan or Michigan State University.
“Grand Valley may be Division II in athletics, but they truly run like a Division I school,” he said.
As far as the music that the band plays at each game, Martin lets the basketball team help select songs, and he arranges or buys the music they suggest. He also tries to keep the band’s program updated each year by taking out old music pieces, looking at what’s new and including some of the music that the band members like playing.
Martin said the members are quick learners and good enough musicians that the band rehearses only two or three times before the season starts, then right before the games throughout the rest of the season.
Auditions are held each October and Martin said the band is looking for more people to join, especially since more bands might be added to the program. Members are paid a stipend once they complete the season.
Isaac Arbogast, who plays saxophone in the band, has been a part of it for three years. Arbogast’s advice for students looking to join is that they practice well before the auditions, which can be competitive.
“A member of the pep band should be a fan of basketball and should not be afraid to yell and have fun with cheers and the timeout activities. This is a high-energy group and each member should reflect that,” he said.
For a chance to see the Pep Band in action, visit the men’s and women’s basketball games on Saturday.