URI marching band to wow fans at season-end concert

KINGSTON, Nov. 5, 2012 – Sarah McKellick spends her classroom days buried in textbooks, but when she really wants to have a good time she picks up her alto sax and marches across campus to rock out at a football game.

The big noise she and her friends are making on campus is legal and, in fact, encouraged. They’re all members of URI’s marching band, one of the hottest spirit groups on campus.

The band, known to insiders as “The Pride of New England, That Ram Band,” has 115 members, with varied musical backgrounds. Most are not music majors. All skill levels need apply.

“If you have some experience playing an instrument or swinging a flag you can join up,” says Brian Cardany, the band’s director. “If you want to be involved, we want you to be involved.”

That inclusiveness is what makes the band charming – and downright irresistible. Members are from all walks of life and pursuing different passions at URI. Some are majoring in journalism, others in pharmacy. Some play sports; others are into theater. Some eat their veggies, others don’t.

Just ask Bryan Kuchar, a 20-year-old sophomore from Cumberland, R.I., who is majoring in theater and elementary education and also plays the alto sax. He says the band is the “greatest thing since sliced bread.”

“I know that’s a cliché, but it’s true,” he says. “It really brings a lot of kids together with different backgrounds. It’s cool how we can all work together to achieve a goal, which is to make music.”

The band will toot its horn during its annual pass-in-review concert at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16 at the Fine Arts Center. The event is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, with the music of Bach, Beethoven, and the Beatles, and one or two URI fight songs thrown in for good measure. Admission is $10, and $5 for students.

“It’s our last celebration of the year,” says Cardany. “We also record the concert and make a CD.”

McKellick, a 22-year-old senior from Winchendon, Mass., can’t wait: “It’s like a rock concert.” She’s been playing the alto sax since she was 11 years old. She loves music, but didn’t want to study it in college. Her major is the very brainy chemical engineering, with a minor in math and biology.

She did, however, want to play in a college marching band. She remembers asking Cardany three times before she enrolled if she could play in “That Ram Band,” without pursuing a music degree. He said, sure, sure, and sure, and she settled on URI as her first choice.

She loves cheering for the teams, mastering the music – “Louie, Louie,” the iconic rock n’ roll song from the 1950s is a favorite – and learning how to march and play at the time without missing a beat – or a step.

“To do really well in a marching band requires focus,” she says. “You’re always thinking ahead, otherwise you’ll get out of step.”

The band gives students an opportunity to take a break from their studies and is also a great way to meet people, especially during freshman year when the college scene can seem a bit daunting. Band members attend a seven-day camp before school starts in the fall. On her first day four years ago, McKellick met fellow musicians who are best buds today.

“I’ve always been big on school spirit,” she says. “Being in the band is a great way to show that spirit. I get to yell and cheer and be loud and crazy. It’s great.”

Students practice three days a week, from 4 to 6 p.m. Many members go on to play in the 60-member Pep Band, which Cardany also directs. That band whoops it up at URI basketball games in the winter.

“I think the big thing for people to know is that the bands are like a family,” says Cardany. “It’s a tight group of people. They take care of each other. It’s pretty special.”

He should know. When he arrived at URI in 2002 the marching band didn’t have a practice field, the uniforms were old, and many of the instruments were falling apart. Now the band practices behind the Fine Arts Center and is marching in fancy duds, complete with hats topped with fluffy blue plumes. The percussion and brass sections have new instruments.

When he isn’t directing the URI bands, Cardany, 41, who has a doctorate in music from Arizona State University, is blowing his trumpet and French horn with The American Band, a local group that performs at concerts and gigs in southern New England. It’s good practice for those rousing football games.

Students who don’t have time to march, but still want to sis-boom-bah can join the Mob, a high-energy spirit group that turns events at the Ryan Center and Meade Stadium into giant pep rallies. The only requirement to join is a healthy dose of school spirit and hardy vocal muscles: So, go, go Rhode Island! Go Rhode Island, U-R-I!

“We want to create excitement and give our teams the best home court and field advantages possible,” says Derrick Light, Mob leader and a 19-year-old marketing major from Coventry, R.I. “If you’re eager to show off your Rhody pride, we’re the group for you.”

Tickets for the pass-in-review concert are available at the box office on a first-come basis starting 45 minutes before the concert. The Fine Arts Center is handicapped accessible, and parking is available in the lot behind the building, off Bills Road. For more information, please contact URI’s music department at 401-874-2431, or visit the website at www.uri.edu/music.

Pictured above

Sarah McKellick holds her alto sax in the URI marching band.

Photo by Katie McKellick