By Dan Gati
And the Band Plays On... Unfortunately
   I had an interesting meeting with a 
"band" member in the library the other day.
This meeting dispelled two myths. One, I do
know where the library is. Two, there are 
members of the band who look normal.
   And as the football season mercifully 
winds down, and the "band" mercifully plays
on, there are three questions I feel 
compelled to ask: 
   One, does 'pass on first down' ring a 
   Two, is there is a play in the offense
that at least has the capability of going 
for more than 10 yards? 
   And three, why doesn't the administration 
do something about the "band?" 
   I would like to address this question in
further detail. 
   The self-proclaimed cleverest "band" in 
the world, the Columbia University Marching
"Band," is one big contradiction. But my 
disdain for the "band" is not a matter of 
semantics. We all know they aren't a 
marching "band," and it is painfully obvious 
that they aren't clever. It's a lot more 
than that. 
   I have been to all but two of the 
football games this season, and each and 
every time the "band" steps on the field, I
cringe. I've said it once, I'll say it as 
many times as is necessary: the "band" is 
an embarrassment to every single person 
affiliated with this University. 
   When the "band" plays each Saturday, at 
home or on the road, not only do they 
represent themselves, but they represent 
the student body. Would these "band" members
go to a job interview dressed as they are 
for football games? Would they have sent 
pictures in to the Admissions Committee as 
they look on the football field? No, 
probably not. 
   All I ask for is a little cohesion. Every
band in America has a uniform. Is that too 
much to ask for? 
   Simply put, the "band" is a permanent 
Halloween party. There's the guy who dresses
like a cow for every performance. No, that 
isn't funny. It's a football game, not a Ben
and Jerry's commercial. And at Penn, one male
member wore a dress. And we can't leave out
the guy who dressed up like a robot. Is this
kind of attire necessary to play music? Must
every member be as poorly dressed and as 
slovenly as possible? 
   Let me try to put myself inside the head 
of a "band" member and see if I can 
understand how they come up with their skit
every week. So we want to be as funny as we 
can. First, let's round up all the derelicts
on Columbia's campus. Then, instead of 
practicing, we'll just run around in circles
and think of witty things to say at half-
time. Well, let's forget being witty. We'll
just run around. 
   Then, we'll not only embarrass ourselves,
but we'll embarrass anyone who ever had a 
connection to Columbia. Oh, and let's call 
ourselves clever, and maybe someone will 
believe it. Then, we'll make lots of inside
jokes, and call ourselves a marching band. 
And then, since we are forced to play music,
we'll play the three songs we know. 
   Let's turn back to the administration. I
find it very hard to believe that the 
University is actively involved in changing
the image of the "band." What is the 
threshold for what is considered 
inappropriate? The "Band" routinely mocks 
the administration, yet it seems as if the 
University pretends not to hear. The 
University doesn't owe the "band" anything.
The "band" has no inherent right [sic] make
fools of themselves and the student body at
   Since the "band" is supposed to play 
music, let me indulge you in my opinion of 
their musical skills. It will only take 
three words. They have none. My tone-deaf 
dog can play the national anthem better than
the "band" did last week. 
   And if I'm a football player, I'm really
pissed off at what happened last week at the
Princeton game. As the captains walked on 
the field for the coin toss, the "band" was
still involved in its' per-game [sic] debacle. 
I'm sure that's exactly what Chris 
Tillotson, Paul Roland, Bert Bondi, and game
-captain Jim Armstrong needed to get them pumped up. 
   It is high time the University ended this
"rich tradition" of the marching "band." No 
one cares how long they've been doing what 
they do, or if this is common practice for 
an Ivy League football game. The "band" is a
complete and utter embarrassment. As long as
they are allowed to perform at athletic 
events, you will find a permanent cloud 
hanging over Columbia athletics and the 

Responses on November 9:

To the Editor: 

   Dan Gati's unflattering review of the 
Columbia band [DG's Place, Nov. 5] and his 
clarion call for administration intervention
signifies that Columbia sports is succeeding
in becoming respectable.
   People are now watching. Too bad the band
is not upholding its tradition. 
   Allow me to reminisce. Back in the 70's, 
the band was populated by musicians, relying
on the music and simple sight gags for humor.
Costumes? Anathema. One half-time show 
consisted of band members assembling in the
middle of the field in two circles, playing 
their repertoire, and calling it a tribute 
to women. Sophomoric? No doubt. Clever? 
Well, perhaps . . . but really, who cares? 
The band (and teams) deserved a thumbs-up 
for performing on a shoestring, especially 
compared to the bountiful music (and 
athletic) budgets of their opponents that 
would make Midas envious. 
   Anyway, who would the band offend? 
Columbia students? It didn't matter, the 
teams uniformly stank and the band usually 
outnumbered the CU fans in attendance. (I am
quick to point out that when the basketball 
team was competitive in the late 70's, the 
band was a visible presence in the packed 
Levien Gym and no one ever complained.) 
Opposing fans? Please, we had no respect for
other Ivy or local schools. Read some of the
old Spectator articles that routinely 
trashed them. At least the band has never 
been as tasteless as the "mascot" of the 
Atlanta Braves of the 70's & 80's, named 
Chief Noc-A-Homa (I kid you not), leading 
cheers from his teepee along the foul line. 
   Maybe the band, like Saturday Night Live,
is past its prime, the price paid for 
athletic respectability, but I won't give up
on them yet. If it's machine-like precision 
and proper behavior you want, journey up the
Hudson to West Point; they'll oblige you. 
             Anthony M. Vassallo CC '80 
	     Nov. 6, 1998 

To the Editor: 

   I would just like to tell Dan Gati that
his article is wrong about what the student
body feels [DG's Place, Nov. 5] and how we 
want to be represented. 
   I was more embarassed by the performance
(or lack thereof) of the football team 
against Princeton this weekend than I was by
the band. 
   And I preferred what our band wore over 
the hideous orange and black jackets of the
Princeton band.
   Would anyone wear that jacket to an 
   The summer before I came to Columbia I 
saw the band on David Letterman. They 
marched through the studio, playing their 
hearts out, the cow suit was even there and
you know what? I was so excited to go to a 
school that encouraged such creativity, 
individualism, and flambouancy; I didn't 
feel embarassed at all. 

             Rachel Wiseman CC '99 
             Nov. 6, 1998