Each year on Homecoming Weekend, alumni return to campus to watch the football game, but this year, one alum will be playing percussion in the Cobber Athletic Band, rather than just sitting in the stands.
Joey Bjornson, ‘15 alum will be the percussionist joining The Cobber Athletic Band, also referred to as the pep band.
Bjornson, has been practicing and performing with the pep band this year in an effort to guide younger percussionists into the challenging position, said Dr. Nathaniel H. Dickey, associate professor of music and faculty advisor of the Cobber Athletic Band.
“It’s great to have someone who knows the drill, who’s solid, who’s reliable, who’s willing to kind of be that mentor, bridging the gap between one generation and the next,” Dickey said.
The pep band percussionist has some unique responsibilities. Rather than reading sheet music like the rest of the instrumentalists, the drummer plays his or her part by ear, according to one of the band’s student directors, Kristine Strege.
It is important that the percussionist is confident and accurate, because the rest of the band relies on the drummer to keep the time.
“In anything, you need a good sense of time, but in pep band where you’re outside, it’s not music that you’re rehearsing constantly, there’s a lot of other noises…it can be hard to hear each other,” said sophomore trombonist Christopher Patton. “The percussionists can lay down a steady beat, which allows everyone to stay together.”
Bjornson joined the band in part to demonstrate the parts to the current percussionists, because none of the younger players knew the pieces by memory.
Bjornson graduated with a degree in math and accounting, and is currently working at Archway Marketing in Fargo, N.D. During his four years at Concordia, Bjornson played percussion in many different ensembles, including the Concordia Band, Symphonic Band, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz III and the Cobber Athletic Band.
He has attended every practice and played in every event that the pep band has participated in this fall. He will continue to attend rehearsals and play at events, including the Homecoming bonfire, parade, and football game.
“I love music and I love playing drum set, so anytime I get an opportunity to play drums for a school event…I’m all about that,” Bjornson said.
In his 13 years of teaching, Dickey remembers a couple of times that an alum has stepped in to assist the pep band, however it is not a common occurrence, and he emphasizes that current students come first.
The pep band currently consists of about 40 to 50 members, though attendance varies, because the students do not receive college credit for playing in the ensemble. They typically practice for one hour before each performance.
Strege said that the group has about two dozen songs in their repertoire, which the percussionists must play without music in front of them.
“The difficult thing about finding a drummer is that you need somebody who really knows the pieces well, because they don’t generally read off a part, they just know it,” Strege said.
The Cobber Athletic Band will play at the Homecoming Parade at 11 a.m. on Thurs., Oct. 3. The parade begins at the Townsite Center near McDonald’s and ends at the Jake Christiansen Stadium. The band will also play during the Homecoming football game vs. Bethel College following the parade.
Bjornson looks forward to seeing many of his friends at the Homecoming game, as well as returning to the Concordia community.
“Being able to relive those memories for like a day will just be really nice,” Bjornson said. “It’s just really exciting to see everyone again.”
For a full schedule of Homecoming events, visit https:// www.concordiacollege.edu/ alumni-donors/news-and-events/homecoming/2015-homecoming-schedule.
The Cobber Athletic Band will also be performing at two more home football games this fall, including Concordia vs. Augsburg on Sat.,
Micaela Gerhardt is a junior at Concordia College pursuing a degree in English Writing and Spanish Studies. Along with writing for The Concordian, she participates in SALSA (Student Association for Living and Studying Abroad) and works at the historic Fargo Theatre. She enjoys breakfast food, poetry, roadtrips, and a dry sense of humor.