Reader’s Guide to the Fans of Maine Hockey, Part V: Screamin’ Black Bears Pep Band

For my concluding part of this Reader’s Guide series, I decided to talk about something that has helped provide the energy for the great fans of Maine Hockey, the pep band.

While I wasn’t able to find when the pep band first formed, they’ve been around for quite a long time. I was able to talk to two different people from the pep band, Grace Gould (tenor sax in Band B) and the director of the pep band Christopher White.

One thing to note about the pep band, it is a class. The class can be taken for 1 credit, or none at the choice of the student when signing up for the class.

First I talked to Grace Gould, whom I’ve known for quite a long time, and is currently dating her. She plays tenor sax for Band B in the Screaming Black Bears pep band. This is her first year in the pep band this year.

“One of the primary functions of the pep band is for the Alfond to never be silent. We always try to keep the crowd going.” It’s very evident as the band is seated in the balcony along with the students, it helps project the noise all around the arena creating quite the atmosphere for a college hockey game.

“The band itself is responsible for about 80 pieces of music … We have rehearsals weekly starting in mid-to-late September. By mid-November, rehearsals are determined on a week-by-week basis dependent on if there are any games that week.”

The last thing I asked her if she had a favorite memory so far as a member of the pep band. “The BC game (11/23), Maine scored a lot of goals, most of us couldn’t pickup our music fast enough for the Stein Song. I think it was the third goal (Ryan Lomberg’s goal), none of us had our music for the stein song, we muttled our way through it and did all the motions. Mr. White looks at us and said, ‘that was the worst Stein Song I ever heard. By the end of the game, they should’ve scored enough goals that you’ll have this memorized.'”

I had talked to Grace previously as part of a Sonic ID project in one of my journalism classes, here it is:

Here’s a video of the band performing the “bud song” that has been altered to “You’ve Said It All” for Maine purposes. Thanks to Mike Fletcher for the video.

Next I talked to the director of the Pep Band, Christopher White, who has been directing the pep band since 1992. “When I got here, there was 2 bands, a hockey band and a basketball band. There were 55 kids signed up for hockey, only 3 signed up for basketball. That changed where I formed a Band A and Band B that alternates all events we’re responsible for (Men’s Hockey, Men’s and Women’s Basketball).”

The name came a few years before White got there. From heresay, he said that a student named Pete pitched the name “Pete something, and the Screaming Black Bears band”, while the name was rejected, they did like the Screaming Black Bears pep band name, so that’s where it came from. He has a great story from his first year as Pep Band Director.

“My first year was 1992-93, which was the national championship, that was memorable in several aspects. As Maine made it to the Frozen Four that year, I received a phone call from the NCAA in Wisconsin (where the Frozen Four was held). The women said that Wisconsin didn’t make the tournament, she requested that we [Maine] play On Wisconsin (Wisconsin’s School Song) and a song called Bud. Maine was playing Michigan and since Wisconsin hates Michigan, it would mean a lot to them”

Many people from Wisconsin had purchased tickets thinking the Badgers would make it, but Wisconsin was eliminated in the Quarterfinals by Michigan. “I thought about it and wasn’t sure if it felt right, I mean playing another school’s song, who does that? On the flight to Milwaukee, I sat behind none other than Shawn Walsh. I asked him about playing On Wisconsin, he thought it was a good idea and that they [pep band] should do this.” He got to the hotel and called the woman back, she had the music ready to fax him right there at the hotel right then, “The fax machine lit up as the music came through. The guy at the desk asked what I was doing, I told him and he thought it was a good idea, they loaned out the ballroom for us to rehearse.”

Then came the moment of truth, “We get to the Bradley Center, Michigan plays their fight song, it was surreal cause it was just like what you hear on TV. We play the Stein Song, Michigan plays another song, I said, ‘lets see what happens.’ We play On Wisconsin, I had never seen anything like it, there was a quick hush, followed by a roar from the crowd, it was a sea of red and white jerseys. We almost stopped playing cause it was so loud. It was amazing to feel the whole crowd support us.”

“Later we played the Bud song, which I admit, we stole it from Wisconsin. That [1992-93] was the year it happened.” The Bud Song would be changed to You’ve Said It All sometime in the late 90’s. Many articles were written in the local Wisconsin papers about their performance and how it may have had an impact on the game. “It was an amazing moment in Maine history, as well as college sports history, not often does one school play another school’s song. Two radio stations interviewed me live during the first period asking me why I did it. It made a huge impression.” Years later, when the Frozen Four returned to Milwaukee in 06, Maine was there and people went up to Mr. White and told them how much they liked what the band did all those years back.

An important question to ask is, did the band actually affect the outcome? “If you believe the audience was a factor, and since every newspaper wrote about it, I guess you could say we did. It goes both ways, but I think it starts on the ice.” Mr. White refuses to ever take credit that the band is directly responsible for the difference in games, mainly cause if the team lost, people might think the band had something to do with it.

Over White’s 22 years, the band has traveled coast-to-coast, like most notably in 1999 for the National Championship in Anaheim. “You play your closest rival in the farthest place away that you could play against each other.

The band performs at TD Garden circa 2012

The band performs at TD Garden circa 2012

The team has traveled to California twice (Anaheim and Santa Barbara); Missoula, MT (04 NCAA B-Ball tournament); Durham and Raleigh, NC (98 B-Ball Tournament), Charlottesville, NC (96 B-Ball tournament); Baton Rouge, LA; and Boston several times, just to name a few. “I tell my students in pep band, this is the only place at UMaine that offers the most amount of travel. The possibility of travel is motivation for these students.”

The location of the band at Alfond Arena was not always in the balcony as we see today. Initially after the Alfond was expanded, the band was seated in the back of section PPP (now known today as section OO). The sound didn’t always do great as you could imagine playing in a corner of the arena, plus the students were in sparse locations so while it was rocking, it could’ve been better. “After a series of meetings, we [the university] decided to move the students and the band into the balcony. I think that decision made the Alfond even more electric than it already was to then. That was when songs like the Hey Song began to take off [at Alfond Arena].

We moved on, talking about some of the music at the Alfond, “The Alfond is a very superstitious place. One year I decided to stop playing Gimme Some Luvin and played something different. After a half a year, the fan forum on firstclass wondered what happened to the song that went Ba-da-da-da-da-Bop. I was like what? But then realized he was talking about Gimme Some Luvin. Nowadays, I’m afraid to change something, we play the same four songs in our pre-game setlist.”

In terms of songs you hear during the game and intermissions, varies from all different eras/genres/etc. Whether it’s a rendition of Sweet Caroline, Don’t Stop Believin’, Livin on a Prayer, Unbelievable, to more recent hits like Party Rock Anthem, and Gangnam Style. “One thing all collegiate pep bands do is try to be relevant. When we played Gangnam Style, that song was hot, Louie Louie wouldn’t have had the same effect. I’m always in search of the next big thing, cause you never know where it’s gonna come from, it might come from behind you.” He added, “I can’t play everything I played 10 years ago, some songs stick but most don’t. When the crowd is singing louder than the band, that’s a good sign.”

One thing that is integral to the band’s performances is communication. Mr. White wears a headset so he can communicate with the PA people. “Sometimes they’ll be like ‘We need to read this one paragraph, then you’re on’.” Another thing that’s important is that when the puck is dropped, the band needs to stop or the team would be assessed a penalty. “That has never happened to me in my 22 years, nor do I want it to happen. I have been warned in basketball before, but never penalized.

Lastly he added about the Maine fans, “I love the energy, with the band, I take that energy , and provide it with direction.”

In my personal opinion, I’ve enjoyed the pep band, some of my favorite Maine memories involve the pep band. My first example I think of was back to my Freshman year, Maine was hosting BC and they were down by one goal late in the third (5 minutes left). Maine calls a timeout, the pep band decides to play the Stein Song, I along with everybody else in the student section sang our school’s song, 30 seconds later Adam Shemansky notches the tying goal and the place erupted. I believe the same thing happened against Alabama-Huntsville two weeks later, just I always love the late timeouts that lead to the band playing the Stein Song. Most recently back in February when BU came to town, it was my first game at the Alfond (as a fan) in two months and with Maine in the middle of coming back from a 3-goal deficit late, the pep band played the Stein Song, after getting the crowd involved, Maine managed to tally the tying goal with and the place went nuts.

Time and time again, the pep band reminds me of everything that’s good about Maine hockey, their music helps create the atmosphere that’s been praised by many in the college hockey community. After I leave this university, every time I return, one thing I’ll look forward to is the pep band.

Thus concludes my 5 part Reader’s Guide series about fans of Maine hockey. It has been a real treat over the last few weeks talking to so many different people that helped contribute to this. With this I’m done with reader guides, I will continue my weekly recaps and previews posting each week. I might throw some other posts in between, I will have time to figure that out, until next time, thanks for reading and Go Blue.

Alex Quirk

About Alex Quirk

Alex covers UMaine Hockey for WMEB Sports, the sports department at WMEB 91.9 FM, as the sideline reporter/live-tweeter during the games. .