George Mason has the Green Machine. Texas Tech has the Court Jesters. And, now, CofC has the Chucktown Sound.
The College of Charleston pep band will debut under its new moniker – Chucktown Sound – this Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, at the Charleston Basketball Block Party, the official tip-off event that marks the start of men’s and women’s basketball season.
“I want us to have an identity and a brand, something that’s recognizable throughout the College and the larger community,” says Christopher Gongora, director of athletic bands.
And the name isn’t the only new thing about the College’s pep band this season. The music ensemble has a new logo, new uniforms (Under Armour locker T-shirts, pullovers, warmup pants and ball caps), and a slew of new brass instruments and saxophones. The group is also going a little rock ’n’ roll with the addition of electronic instruments, including an electric guitar and synthesizer.
The band has also doubled in size, growing from 20 to 40 members this year. Because all pep band members receive scholarships, there is an application and audition process to join the ensemble. Gongora, who joined the College staff in July, hopes to eventually grow the band to as many as 80 or more members in the coming years.
The changes, says the band director, are part of a new vision to modernize and energize the pep band to enhance the College’s basketball game experience for fans.
“I just want us to affect the atmosphere and maybe even the outcome of some of the games by the presence we create,” says Gongora.
Look for the band to play gameday standards such as The Charleston and the 1950s classic Hey Baby. But, the setlist won’t be all classics and oldies.
“I recognize that we’ve also got to do something to generate excitement with the players and students,” says Gongora, who has also joined the College’s Department of Music as adjunct faculty teaching applied tuba and euphonium.
The Chucktown Sound will hype up the games this season with tunes from popular artists such as Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, among others.
And band members are enthusiastic about the changes.
“I love our new name,” says clarinet player Cymone Littlejohn, a sophomore majoring in early childhood education, who played with the pep band last season. “It gives us an identity that we didn’t have last year. We are no longer a group of kids who sit at the basketball games with instruments. We are a unified band that supports our basketball players by cheering, dancing and playing cool music.”
Elizabeth Smolenski, who plays euphonium in the ensemble, says the new name, look and sound of the pep band – and it’s closer partnership with College of Charleston Athletics – will help the group become a more visible and integral part of the campus community.
“I’m most looking forward to our first basketball game this semester,” says Smolenski, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry. “I can’t wait to show our student body and the athletic department our new identity.”
Gongora is just as excited: “From the first game, I’m hopeful that there’s going to be an immediate impact and a difference, and for fans to take notice and start seeing more and more new [features of the band] throughout the season.”