A No BS! Brass Band member is helping tweak the UR pep band’s sound with the help of some of the city’s best musicians.
David Hood, the alto saxophone player for No BS! Brass Band, has a side project many don’t know about. Hood’s the director of the University of Richmond pep band, and now in his third year at the helm, he’s helped grow the band and find its sound.
“A lot of schools that have marching band programs…the pep band, or the band that plays at a basketball game, is sort of an extension of the marching band that plays at a football game,” Hood said by phone recently.
Despite having a football team, UR has no marching band. He says this allows his pep band to create its own identity.
Hood, who also works at the Richmond Symphony, joined the UR pep band in 2008. “My involvement started when the band was comprised primarily of members of No BS! Brass Band,” Hood said. Then-director Reggie Pace, co-founder of the No BS! Brass Band, brought in his bandmates to pep up the UR band due to a lack of student involvement.
Over time, Hood helped Pace direct the band more and more, so much so that when Pace left the pep band in 2010, Hood was tapped to take over.
“By the time I took it over, and over the last few years, I saw the need and opportunity for the band to sort of shift gears into being more involved, as far as the students were concerned,” Hood said.
He decided to make participation in the band slightly more class-like. He drew on his experience as a member of the VCU pep band when he attended VCU years prior. Hood began arranging all the music for the pep band and holding weekly rehearsals. The changes worked.
“It seemed at the end of last year, we were kind of ready to take the next step in defining the group, and it seemed like it was the time to make that push and try to get students involved.”
In previous years, Hood said the UR pep band comprised about eight non-student members and only five-to-eight students. This year, there are 15 non-students member, and about 10 students — 25 members overall.
“Compared to VCU, it’s a low number,” Hood admitted. “If I had to guess, they operate with double [UR’s number].”
But competing with the Peppas in either numbers or sound isn’t in Hood’s itinerary. Hood knows that VCU pep band leader Ryan Kopacsi has helmed his band for 16 years, affording him the time to develop the Peppas. “He’s done a good job,” Hood said. “But it took time for him to come up with the idea of what that band was going to sound like to what it does now, where it’s kind of like an expanded version of, maybe, a New Orleans brass band.”
This is a pivotal year in deciding what the UR pep band will sound like, Hood said. Part of it will be determined by the individual members and how they play as a whole. Hood will have no shortage of musical talent to draw from. Not only is he joined by members of No BS! Brass Band in the pep band, there are members of Butcher Brown, RVA Big Band, Fight the Big Bull, Brunswick, Bio Ritmo, and others.
“I arrange stuff for the band to be as concise as possible and clean,” Hood said. He particularly wants to distinguish the brass instruments so they don’t become “convoluted.”
Hood also has the university’s backing and support. Not only has the pep band received new outfits this season, the Athletics Department is publicly soliciting names for the band to further solidify its identity.
This year the band has also moved into new digs, playing in the renovated Robins Center, which celebrates a grand opening on Saturday, January 18th when the Spiders take on Dayton at 3:00 PM. “It’s an exciting place to be in,” Hood said about the New Robins Center. But it’s even more exciting to be creating the music that will fill it over the next several years.
photo courtesy of University of Richmond