By Molly Burke
Youngstown State University’s Pep Band is gearing up for its annual Jam the Gym on Feb. 11 and Feb. 18.
Director of Athletic Bands, Kate Ferguson, said Jam the Gym is an opportunity for high school students to participate in a basketball game-day experience with the YSU Pep Band.
“[The highschool students] just get to come, hang out before the game for a little while. We do some sectionals, work on some music for a little while and they get to participate in the game day experience and play with us for the whole game and cheer and just be a part of the Pep Band,” Ferguson said.
Unlike previous years, Jam the Gym will be held on two separate days. The YSU Colorguard and Penguinettes will also teach routines and include students in the halftime show.
Ferguson said preparation is required to host over 100 high school students at Jam the Gym.
“We chose specific music for them to play, we gave them all that music so that they could learn it ahead of time, and then the day of the game it’s just a lot of managing all the people that are there and doing the rehearsals,” Ferguson said.
David Ross, senior forensic science and chemistry major, plays trumpet in Pep Band. He said there are no requirements for Jam the Gym beyond having an instrument. This allows for a range in experience among students, which can present challenges for the Pep Band.
“I think the biggest challenge is just taking the kids from all different types of schools and different levels of musicianship and bringing it together and trying to just get one whole sound from it,” Ross said.
To accommodate for all students and make it easier to learn quickly, simple tunes and popular Pep Band hits are selected.
“We have picked songs or tunes that are a bit on the easier side to make it more fun, just because a more difficult song might not entice them to maybe come to YSU,” Ross said.
Graduate teaching assistant of Athletic Bands, Benjamin Pickard, said Jam the Gym can allow high school students to experience what being a musician in college is like.
“It’s just one more chance for them to get their feet wet and get an idea of what the actual college band experience is like,” Pickard said. “It just is a chance to broaden your experience in another way. Maybe they’ve never seen college sports before, maybe they’ve never seen a college band before. They’ll get to meet other kids from other high schools and talk to them.”
Pickard said Jam the Gym can connect high school students to YSU.
“They get to work with Dr. Ferguson, our student leaders, and myself. So, they’ll see what those people are like,” Pickard said. “Hopefully they’ll enjoy that experience.”
Freshman music major, Jacob Sizer, plays baritone in the Pep Band. He said the high school students can learn a lot from Jam the Gym.
“Honestly they can learn so much because whenever I was in high school, hearing other professional people play…it’s inspiring, honestly on a different level. It sounds different, it feels different,” Sizer said.
To register for Jam the Gym, go to its website. For more information, head to the YSU Marching Pride and Pep Band Facebook page.