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December 18, 2012
By Natalie Savidge
Junior marketing major and trumpeter Michelle Calica reminisces about her trip to Honolulu, Hawaii last year as the Nevada Wolf Pack football team took on Southern Mississippi on Christmas Eve.
"We had the wonderful opportunity to travel with the football and cheer teams to Honolulu to represent our athletics at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl," Calica, a University of Nevada, Reno student originally from Las Vegas, said. "We played rallies on the beach for our team and also got to enjoy the city. Few people in their college careers get the opportunity to travel with their athletics and represent their team."
Calica, along with other members of the Wolf Pack Marching Band, traveled with the football team this year to Albuquerque for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
"The entire band was given the opportunity to attend," she explained. "It is wonderful to be invited and be given the chance to enhance the fans' experience."
These opportunities Calica recalls so fondly came to the Wolf Pack marching band, a major ensemble of the Department of Music, just four years after budget cuts.
The marching band, known as the Pride of the Sierra, is supported by the University's College of Liberal Arts and Department of Music, as well as by a $5 surcharge on all football season ticket sales and on men's and women's basketball tickets. The launch of a fundraising program supported by Greater Nevada Credit Union, "It's Time to Support the Band," will also benefit the marching band. The credit union has pledged to match up to $45,000 in community donations to the band over the next three years.
"Most of our budget is generated by Athletics, but comes directly from Wolf Pack fans," William Plenk, director or marching, pep and symphonic bands, and conducting instructor, said. "Without support from the fans, the marching band would not exist today."
Plenk, who joined the University last fall, and his more than 120 musicians have responded with new energy, music, routines and appearances, and hope to continue to welcome more members to the band in future years.
"We want to fill out the football field even more and really hit the audience with a wall of sound," he said. "The Pride of the Sierra will continue to sound great, look great and, again, become a fixture in the community."
Wolf Pack football fans may have noticed the marching band in a different section in Mackay Stadium the last two years. The Wolf Pack Marching Band made the move to the student section this season and settled within the middle of the cheering students.
"The new location is great because it makes us more of a focal point in the stands," Plenk said. "Rather than being off to the side, we are toward the middle. We are also more toward the bottom of the student section, which helps to keep the sound of the band inside the stadium."
Plenk explained another change this year during the band's pregame performance.
"We split the band up into three smaller groups that go to different regions in the tailgate lots," he said. "They give mini concerts to various groups of people, instead of just marching up to the stadium and onto the field. I believe fans are grateful for the personal attention by the band and the more intimate setting of the mini concert."
As an 11-year trumpeter, Calica agreed on the success of the new approach.
"We get much more contact and visibility with the fans because we can move to the inside of the lots, rather than being limited to the roads," she said.
Also a chorus member of the Nevada Opera as well as the Nevada Chamber Opera, Calica adjusts her schedule to allow for plenty of time to rehearse and perform. And, as the musicians now transition from football to basketball season, she celebrates the reduced practice time.
"Football season is great since we get to put on full shows during halftime," Calica said. "But with that, of course, comes a lot of extra rehearsal time. Pep band takes up significantly less time."
For the basketball fans in the crowd at the Nov. 30 Nevada vs. Drake match-up in Lawlor Events Center, many were surprised as the pep band led the cheer team in a flash mob to songs by performing artists Kesha and Bon Jovi.
Asked if the band is planning similar flash mobs throughout the season, Calica said, "Surprises are always a possibility but would not be surprises if they were expected."
Sounds of tubas, trumpets, trombones and other instruments filled the air last month as the Wolf Pack Marching Band played the Nevada Fight Song inside the Greater Nevada Credit Union branch in south Reno.
Credit union members strolling in during the lunch hour were greeted by nearly 20 members of the band, branch executives and University representatives celebrating the launch of "It's Time to Support the Band," a fundraising program benefitting the marching band.
"For every penny, nickel, dime and dollar contributed, we'll match it," said Dean Altus, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Greater Nevada Credit Union. "We're hoping the community will join us in our exciting new partnership with the University of Nevada marching band and help us reach our goal of raising $30,000 annually."
Greater Nevada Credit Union has promoted the matching gift campaign, pledging to match up to $45,000 over the next three years, in their branches and at home football games, and is now present at home basketball games.
"The opportunities this gift and partnership have provided already have been incredible," Plenk said. "We have been able to hire additional instructional staff, which will continue to improve our performance quality. We were able to take the full band to the UNLV football game this fall and replace all of our color guard equipment, and are now designing new uniforms."
Plenk said the current uniforms are about 10 years old, and the redesign will include more light colors so that the musicians will be more visible on the field.
"We want a more timeless and collegiate look," he said.
To learn more about supporting the Wolf Pack Marching Band and helping them reach their $15,000 goal by June 30, 2013, contact Lynda Buhlig, executive director of development at the University, (775) 682-6013; or Greater Nevada Credit Union, (775) 882-2060. Or, give online at Support Nevada.
Natalie Savidge is senior media relations specialist for University of Nevada, Reno.