Wilmington College is building upon the success of its Quaker Thunder Pep Band with plans to stage the institution’s first-ever marching band in the near future.
While admitting it’s an ambitious aspiration, college officials look to the success of the ever-growing pep band since a handful of enthusiastic musicians first played “Hang On Sloopy” at a home basketball game last winter.
Its membership is already 16 with a goal of 25 this coming fall — and therein lies the foundation for a marching band, according to Stephen Wadsack, the newly hired director of athletic bands and instrumental music instructor, who has seen numbers triple since he first directed the band at several home football games this fall.
“Students are craving to express themselves creatively,” Wadsack said, noting that most new freshmen, in navigating their new world in college, seek a sense of community and emotional connection with others through shared interests and experiences.
“These social support networks are often found through the structure inherent in teams, groups and organizations,” he added. “Music has a unique and incredible ability to speak to this which, I believe, is a driving force behind the interest we’re seeing. These students see an emerging instrumental music program that stands out on campus as a gathering place for exceptional individuals.”
The college believes that such exceptional individuals should be rewarded for the talents they share through their commitment to the band. WC is offering annual $1,000 Talent Awards to new members of the pep band beginning with the fall 2019 semester. Founding members of the band are already enjoying the windfall.
Dennis Kelly, senior vice president/chief enrollment officer, said the scholarship is the latest merit-based award offered by the college, which provides Talent Awards to select equestrians and theatre students. WC also is providing financial awards to incoming students, involved with national scouting organizations, who have attained Eagle Scout or Gold Award status.
“The college believes there is an untapped wealth of high school students who wish to continue participation in instrumental music while attending college,” Kelly said, noting the $1,000 Talent Award would be added to interested students’ financial aid packages. “WC is making this opportunity available to students studying any major with the expectation that their involvement in pep band, starting in fall 2019, will ultimately result in their becoming founding members of the first-ever Wilmington College Marching Band and, pending its success, even a WC Concert Band sometime in the future.”
Kelly added that the college’s ambitious plans for instrumental music have interested alumni and friends wishing to provide financial support. WC’s successful #GivingTuesday promotion in November resulted in much-appreciated seed money for the program.
Wadsack said the college’s new endeavor in instrumental music parallels its longtime offerings in intercollegiate athletics. Both sports teams and musical groups provide opportunities for leadership development, personal growth and hands-on learning experiences.
“Small colleges and universities like Wilmington have long been known for giving student-athletes the chance to continue playing the sports they love,” he said. “What we’re doing here is providing the exact same type of opportunity for high school band students who’ve enjoyed playing an instrument, performing, supporting their school and making lifelong friends.”
Wadsack said he wants to emphasize to high school band members that regardless of their academic major, they will have time to pursue band membership at Wilmington College.
“Also, you will have great experiences at WC that will stay with you for the rest of your lives,” Wadsack said.
Randall Sarvis is the director of public relations at Wilmington College.