Mari Crowley, a junior in the Diederich College of Communication, picked up the trumpet on a whim in middle school.
“We got to try all the different instruments and it was whatever one that you were best at making a sound on. The trumpet happened to be the one for me,” Crowley says.
Nine years later, she still plays the brass horn and serves as the student conductor for the Marquette Pep Band, overseeing women’s volleyball and basketball games.
Last year, when the volleyball team made a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it was significant for Crowley.
“The volleyball team went into the playoffs last year and those games are high-profile because they get broadcast on TV,” Crowley says. “There’s a lot of important people there, and I was given the opportunity to conduct those. Knowing that I was a part of something that was important was very exciting.”
Being a student conductor isn’t the only unique opportunity offered by Marquette’s band programs, which offer four groups to participate in: pep band, symphonic band, wind ensemble and jazz ensemble.
“There’s no auditions or anything for the jazz band at Marquette. If you want to do jazz, you show up. There are even kids who haven’t played jazz music before who joined and are learning,” says Jakita Fleck, a member of the 7 p.m. ensemble. “So, it’s a really welcoming and warm environment.”
Marquette also offers the option to take a course on the carillion — a musical instrument composed of at least 23 bells, arranged in chromatic sequence, so tuned as to produce concordant harmony when many bells are sounded together. The instrument is played from a keyboard with the larger bells connected to foot pedals. Marquette’s carillon boasts 48 bells and resides atop Marquette Hall — its peals can be heard throughout campus.
The pep band is another group near and dear to Marquette fans. The band plays women’s volleyball as well as men’s and women’s home basketball games. For the men’s basketball games, the pep band plays at Fiserv Forum.
“I love getting to Fiserv way earlier than the general public and getting to see the energy rise when everyone starts crowding into the stands,” says Fleck, a sophomore in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. “I often forget that it’s also an NBA arena, and saying it like that makes me remember that it’s so cool that I get to play in there as a pep band member.”
During the BIG EAST and NCAA tournaments, the pep bands are given the amazing experience to travel with the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The band traditionally splits into two parts to travel with both teams. Marquette Bands President Alyssa Jarosz was playing in the winning game for Marquette in the BIG EAST Men’s Basketball Tournament.
“I didn’t realize it was the last minutes of the game, and then all of a sudden, the clock went off, and we were being conducted to play. People were screaming, and it was just so much fun,” says Jarosz, a senior in the College of Nursing. “A lot of us were tearing up and shaking because we were just in such shock. It was a blast.”
The Marquette Bands program has many ways to get involved and different opportunities, but by far the most meaningful and consistent part is the social connections.
“The best part is definitely the people, to me, because everyone who does the pep band is doing it because they want to be there and it’s something they really enjoy,” Crowley says. “Everyone is always excited, happy and the energy is insane. The great culture is really what drew me to it because I wanted to be a part of a fun environment.”