Every Homecoming, the Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band is joined by former members who perform before and during the football game.
The University of Maine Alumni Band started in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1981 that the band began gathering for Homecoming, according to Courtney Evans, president of the group.
Evans works with Pat Munson, director of the alumni band, to prepare music selections, instrumentation and logistics for the Homecoming performance.
The group size ranges from 20 to more than 100 every year, with turnout often weather dependent, Evans says.
The band frequently consists of alumni from classes as far back as the 1950s up to the most recent graduates, according to Christopher White, director of the Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band.
“We have many individuals who return year after year,” says Evans, who plays the trombone. “I’m one that hasn’t missed a Homecoming since I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2004.”
Evans, who was a drum major during her senior year, says performing with and organizing Alumni Band reminds her of her time at UMaine. The opportunity to see friends and catch up in person keeps her coming back.
The group typically arrives the Friday before Homecoming and gathers at Pat’s Pizza in downtown Orono. The next morning, the band begins rehearsing at 8. Practice includes joining the marching band on the field.
During the football game, the Alumni Band sits next to the marching band in the stands and performs as part of the pregame and halftime shows, White says.
“My favorite part of being involved in the Alumni Band is that I get to see alumni come together and bond over their love of music, share eternal friendship and show such pride in being alumni of UMaine,” Evans says.
Jeff Ferrell, past president of the group, has missed only two Homecoming games since earning his bachelor’s degree in history 24 years ago.
Ferrell graduated in 1993, White’s first year as the marching band’s director.
“One of the reasons that all band folk have such strong ties to other band folks is that we all worked together, suffered together, played together and grew close together,” says Ferrell.
Like many former Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band members, Ferrell met his spouse while in the group.
“What keeps me coming back is getting to see a bunch of my old friends. There is still a core of people, from around my graduation year, that come back year after year,” he says.
“Also, as much as I would like it to be otherwise, it’s my one chance a year to blow the dust out of my tuba and see if I still have the chops to play. Everyone who is there is there for the same reason — to see old friends and have fun. It’s pretty hard to go wrong.”