Since he joined the Mustang Marching Band as a freshman in the fall of 2004, Cal Poly music junior Steven Becraft has played at dozens of home football and basketball games.
He has fond memories of each of them.
“Out of all the games I’ve already played at, I wouldn’t take back a single one,” said Becraft, who is the section leader for bassoons in the school’s wind ensemble. “It’s a blast. At the same time, we’re supporting the athletic department and they’re supporting us.”
Becraft said football differs from basketball because it requires more time to organize a halftime show.
“They’re different because with football we have to do a lot of preparation for it,” he said. “It takes a lot of hours to get a halftime show ready.”
The band is a crew of brass, woodwind, percussion and color-guard performers. Becraft said its motto, “Pride of the Pacific,” goes hand-in-hand with one of the school’s slogans, “Best in the West.”
In addition to athletic events, the band also performs at pep rallies, parades, Open House and Admitted Students Day.
“We’ve made leaps and bounds over the past few years,” Becraft said. “Our budget was increased a few years ago because of the athletic department’s support for us.”
Director of bands William V. Johnson said Proposition 13 in the early 1990s “just about destroyed all of California’s school music programs,” but that the craft is recovering.
Johnson predicted the Mustang Marching Band will have about 130 members this fall, including 30 who also participate in the Orchestra and Wind Ensemble.
“Recruiting is always a challenge,” Johnson said. “We recruit all over the state for music majors and we are in severe competition with many other collegiate band programs.”
Four ensembles make up the band – the wind ensemble, wind orchestra and two jazz bands.
Only about 15 percent of the 200 students in the band program are music majors, Johnson said.
The program’s ties to athletics go beyond campus. In the past, the band has performed halftime shows for the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and in Los Angeles when the Raiders and Rams played at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s great for me because I love sports,” Johnson said. “I’m always nervous about how we will perform, but the students always do their best and the crowd loves them.”
The Orchestra and Wind Ensemble’s first performance of the year, “Bandfest ’06,” is Nov. 18 in Harman Hall.
The Mustang Marching Band, of course, will be performing throughout the Cal Poly football team’s Hall of Fame Game against Southern Utah on Sept. 30.
“It’s just a lot of fun, even after all these years,” Johnson said. “A powerful band on the field in a stadium is an awesome thing to see and hear.”