Update: We have achieved the $25K goal, but don't stop giving now! Every penny still goes to the band for repairs on instruments and other necessary purchases!
As a former member of the Mighty Sound of Maryland, Maryland Pep Band and Maryland Band Staff, I understand the important role the "Band Van" plays in the day to day operations of both bands. I had to load and unload that van countless times during my four years in College Park. The van we used, which was sent out to pasture shortly after I graduated, was…unique. We sometimes had to slam the sliding door several times before it would actually close. You felt like you had to push the peddle to the floor before it would actually start moving. It had dents throughout, was rusting in spots, but it got the job done.
The "Band Van", as it's commonly called, is vital for the functioning of both the Marching and Pep bands at Maryland, transporting heavy equipment like podiums, Sousaphones and other items from the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to the rehearsal field in front of the Chapel, the Comcast Center loading dock, the football practice field, and Byrd Stadium.
The kids like to have fun
After I graduated, a "new" (read: used van the University no longer wanted) and slightly smaller band van came into existence, which presented some problems, as it was hard to actually fit some of the equipment in the van. So when I saw a few weeks ago that the Maryland Band program was looking to purchase a new van, I was happy they would hopefully get a slightly larger one that could better accommodate the band’s needs. But I was also confused as to why the University was asking members of the band to raise $8,000 to purchase a used van that another part of the University no longer wanted. Why wasn’t the University and or Athletic Department paying for it?
Currently, the Band is about $1,300 away from their new goal of $25,000, which will allow them to purchase a brand new band van. After initially setting out to raise $8,000, that goal was quickly achieved, allowing the focus to shift towards the more ambitious goal of raising $25,000. The campaign has been very successful in engaging a lot of band alumni to give to the cause and has also received support from women's basketball coach Brenda Frese and football coach Randy Edsall. The support shown to the band has been great.
The Band Van campaign is part of a larger University initiative called Launch UMD. The campaign is described as:
Join University of Maryland students and faculty as we LAUNCH big ideas to change the world. Your support will allow us to improve lives through innovation, compete on global stages, inspire social change and more. Fund your passion with a gift to one of the projects below.
So buying a van to transport equipment across campus is "improving lives", fostering "innovation", and will "inspire social change"? Really?
The other campaigns in the Launch UMD will: send Public Health Without Borders students to Sierra Leone;send UMD's Engineers Without Borders to Ethiopia; send LGBTQ students to a community-building retreat; and send the UMD Chamber Singers to Seoul, South Korea. And then there is the campaign to raise money to purchase a van the University should be purchasing themselves.
The Mighty Sound of Maryland and Maryland Pep Band deserves a top notch equipment van and I encourage you to show your support to them by making a donation to the Band Van today. But after you make that gift, you should write to the University and ask why a band, who will soon be part of the rich Big Ten marching band tradition, should have to raise money to purchase an equipment van.
If the University wanted to feature the Band as part of Launch UMD, they should have created a project that fit within the goals of the Launch UMD program. Projects involving the band could have: established a new band scholarship fund; purchased new technology for the band to utilize, or sent the band on a trip similar to the one the Mighty Sound of Maryland took in 2007, where they partnered with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes and bring back the musical spark to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
With Maryland set to join the Big Ten in 47 days, it's unfortunate that the University is making a collegiate band, in one of the premier marching band conferences in the Nation, raise money to purchase an equipment van, while soon to be conference foes like Ohio State are investing millions and handing out iPads to their band.
Alumni and coaches have shown their support and appreciation for the Maryland Band program, but unfortunately the University has failed to do the same.