KINGSTON, R.I. – October 8, 2008 – One band, one sound. Make that one big band, one big sound.
The University of Rhode Island marching band is making big noise this season at Meade Stadium, where Brian Cardany is directing the school’s largest contingent in more than two decades. Cardany, now in his seventh year as the head coach for URI’s marching and pep bands, has 94 band members this year, harkening back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the band reached as many as 150 members.
With a freshman class of 43, his largest ever, Cardany is steadily building membership back to where it was several decades ago.
“We have been able to create a sense of stability in the program,” said Cardany, who had just 58 band members when he came to URI in 2002. “We have emphasized quality of music, and we have been able to build a strong rapport with the students, which has helped with retention.”
By instilling a sense of pride in the band, Cardany is creating a group students want to be a part of.
“It is the students who make the band what it is,” Cardany said. “You watch them get into it, and you see the relationships we build within the band, and that’s what builds that desire to be a part of it.”
Interestingly, less than one-third of the band members (30) have either music education or music as their major. The rest of the group covers a wide array of majors from pharmacy and nursing to anthropology and mechanical engineering.
“While we come together as a group, as one band, we are more than that,” Cardany said. “This is a wide array of individuals who come together to share a love for music, as well as pride for their school.”
When Cardany arrived, the marching band did not have its own practice field, the uniforms were dated and many of the instruments were falling apart. In the past few years, he has gained a practice site behind the Fine Arts Center, purchased new uniforms in 2004 and bought new instruments for the percussion and brass sections last year.
Though the upgrades have helped reenergize band membership, Cardany is facing severe financial issues. For the first time since he arrived, the marching band is not able to travel for road games, due in large part to the combination of budget cuts and the cost of sending the pep band to Atlantic City with the men’s basketball team for the Atlantic 10 Championship, a trip Cardany said is required.
“When we recruit students for the band, we always hear two questions,” said Cardany, who practices six hours per week with the band. “‘How often do we practice?’ and, ‘Do we travel?’ For the first time, we have to say no to traveling for the marching band.”
While the budget issues make life tougher, the marching band still puts on a quality show at the home football games. In a community outreach effort, URI welcomed the Portsmouth High School band to perform together at the Governor’s Cup win over Brown University on Oct. 4. A near-capacity crowd of 6,014 fans watched the two bands belt out classic Jimi Hendrix tunes “All Along the Watchtower” and “Fire” during halftime. For the second time in three home games, the band also serenaded the crowd with the URI alma mater.
At the next home game, Oct. 18 against Villanova University (noon), the band will welcome its alumni on the field to play “Joshua.” The selection is a tribute to Don Burns, the former director of That Ram Band who passed away last spring. Bill Moffit, Burns’ friend and college roommate, wrote the arrangement for “Joshua.”
“The size of the band certainly gives us more presence on the field,” Cardany said. “It helps us project our sound better, and there is a better quality to our performance.”
Link here for the sights and sounds of the Ram Marching Band.
With nearly 100 members, the University of Rhode Island marching band is the largest it has been in more than two decades. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Nora Lewis