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Wednesday, December 06, 2023 — Houston, TX

Owl Pep Band plays its first games this basketball season


Photo courtesy John “Grungy” Gladu

By Sarah Knowlton     11/29/22 11:04pm

The Owl Pep Band, which was introduced in September, debuted this basketball season. In previous years, the Marching Owl Band typically played at these games. 

According to Deputy Athletic Director Rick Mello, the new band was formed to improve game experiences for fans as Rice transitions into the American Athletic Conference next year.

The new band has undergraduate students, graduate students, members of the MOB, Shepherd School students, students from other bands and a student athlete, according to Mello.

“I’m pleased with the progress,” Mello added. 

Nathan Horton, an OPB member, said that the reason for the interest in membership can be attributed to the incentive of pay. 

“When you get paid to do band, that’s a pretty obvious choice,” Horton, a Martel College sophomore, said.

Another OPB member, Benjamin Gomez, said that although he considered joining MOB at one point, he chose to participate in OPB because of the lower time commitment and pay. 

“I feel like [the MOB] is a bigger time commitment,” Gomez, a Duncan College freshman, said. “For the OPB, the practices are just two hours before the game if you have time. It’s very optional.”

MOB alumnus Jose Corea (‘21), who remains part of the band as an alum, said that this year’s change to the MOB’s schedule has impacted the atmosphere of the band.

“There’s kind of a somberness,” Corea said. “At this point in the year, we would be playing basketball games, and we don’t get to do that.” 

MOB alumnus Ian Mauzy (‘14) wrote to the Thresher that the removal of the MOB from basketball games has made some students feel betrayed.

“I think the students feel — correctly — that something has been taken from them without their consent, let alone their input, and that they are not being given anything of comparable value in return,” Mauzy wrote in an email. 

Mauzy also said that with these emotions present in the MOB, he does not look favorably upon the fact that OPB members are paid.

“I can understand wanting newer songs to be played at games, and all other things being equal, I’m in favor of musicians getting paid,” Mauzy wrote. “But neither of those are things that necessitated the creation of a new organization. Those could have both been handled through existing channels. And in conjunction with everything else, fifty dollars a game looks like thirty pieces of silver.”

Corea said that MOB holds no animosity towards OPB members. 

“There’s not really an enmity with the ensemble, just the idea of it,” Corea said. “We just want to stand in solidarity with our string players, our accordion players, even our woodwind players who wouldn’t be prioritized in a brass-centric pep band.” 

The athletics department stated that although instrumentation would be restricted, they were committed to welcoming as many members of the MOB as possible, as well as members of the Rice community as a whole.

“The MOB alumni and the community members that have been part of the MOB, they’re part of the Rice community too,” Mello said. “That’s why we’ve been very, very open with our willingness to invite them to be part of it.”

Najee Greenlee, a member of the OPB, said that he has had a positive experience with the band so far. 

“Everyone is really welcoming, everyone is really kind,” Greenlee, a Lovett College freshman, said. “We have a good time.”

Sophia Flemister, who plays in both the MOB and the OPB, said that they had observed differences between the two ensembles, but enjoyed the atmosphere of both.

“I feel like [the OPB] is a different environment in that it feels a bit more professional,” Flemister, a Duncan freshman, said. “I enjoy the music, I enjoy the people, it’s a good time.” 

Flemister said that to them, a combination of the values of both groups would be an ideal solution to resolve disputes.

“I think what needs to happen is kind of like a merging between the two groups, because I definitely see the perspective of having a new group but then also having the traditions of the MOB,” Flemister said. 

Ethan Goore, MOB game producer, equipment manager and percussionist, said that he feels the MOB is more representative of Rice culture.

“The decision to replace the MOB with a traditional pep band sets a dangerous precedent of Rice replacing unconventional with traditional,” Goore, a Duncan College sophomore, wrote in an email to the Thresher. “The beauty of the MOB is that it isn’t just a band, it’s a community where everyone is invited to enjoy the gift of music performance in a supportive and fun environment.”

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