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Lipscomb pep band playing at a basketball game (Photo from the 1998 Backlog)
Campus Life,  Sports

From Hiatus to Revival: The history of the Lipscomb pep band and its recently announced return

When you walk into the arena for a college basketball game, there’s a few things that will immediately catch your attention. The chatter and cheers from fans around the arena. The mascot that is running around to hype up those same fans. The raucous crowd of students that is screaming at the top of its lungs. And of course, the school’s pep band that is next to them playing their favorite fight songs.

These are some of the many things that make the college basketball experience so unique, but at Lipscomb one of these things hasn’t been present over the past few years and has the potential to return to Allen Arena in the near future. Lipscomb’s student pep band.

Naturally, this raises a few questions about the pep band that existed before it. What happened to it? What is its history? How did it operate? And did it play a role in the atmosphere of McQuiddy Gym and Allen Arena?

We sought out the answers to these questions and the story behind all of this goes a little deeper than what originally meets the eye.

Prepping for pep – The beginning of Lipscomb’s pep band

Traces of a pep band at Lipscomb can be found as early as the mid 1960s, back when the school was known as David Lipscomb College. Throughout its time, the pep band has lived or died on student participation.

The presence of a pep band at basketball came and went throughout these years, and the Lipscomb concert band would often also serve as the pep band during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to alumnus Sara Harwell (’76), who participated in the band during her time at Lipscomb, the band was never an official organization, but instead more of a get-together of students that just wanted to participate.

“As I recall, it was not a real formal organization.” Harwell said. “We were taken from the concert band and we were encouraged to show up at all of the basketball games. So we usually had a pretty good number. It was more than a typical pep band.”

One of the people encouraging students like Harwell? Former men’s basketball head coach Don Meyer. According to an excerpt from Volume 56 of The Babbler (Dec. 7, 1976), Meyer requested everyone to “bring an instrument and strike up a tune!”

An inconsistent presence over the years

According to Lipscomb athletic director Phillip Hutcheson, who played for the men’s basketball team from 1986-1990, the pep band was present during his time as a student, but it with consistency.

“When I got here we had a pep band, but it was kind of student-run. Really the difficulty was that there was just probably no real commitment to every game.” said Hutcheson. “Some games, there’d be a big movie premiere or something and like half the band would not be here, and so that was a challenge.”

Over these years, the story remained the same for the pep band. Some times students would come together to play, while other times it was no where to be found. This seemingly remained the case during the 1980s and 1990s, until the pep band during the late 90s seemingly phased itself out.

Talks of a pep band returned in 2001, as the arrival of the then-newly built Allen Arena sparked the desire to ramp up the game-day atmosphere at men’s and women’s basketball games. In a story from The Babbler that written on Sept. 6, 2001, it was said that the band would be heavily directed by the music department while officially being a part of the athletic department.

One of multiple YouTube videos of a Lipscomb pep band playing at a game in Allen Arena in the 2000s.

Then in 2007, the pep band was set to return once again after what was seemingly another hiatus. This time, around the band also came with a brand name, now being known as the “Stampeding Herd”.

According to a story written in the Oct. 3. 2007 edition of The Babbler, it states that band was going to be funded by the athletic department, with roughly 30 people estimated to participate.

Students were even given multiple incentives to participate consistently, as those that took part would be paid $22.50 per home game and would also receive free pizza and drinks. This estimates to around $33.39 in 2023.

However, the band would still see its inconsistencies over the years, and though the band would come and go during the late 2000s, the sounds of the Lipscomb pep band in Allen Arena would begin to fade away entirely.

The end of Lipscomb’s pep band; finding other alternatives

The last presence of a pep band at a Lipscomb games was courtesy of Hunters Lane High School. Known as the “Bison Boombox”, the marching band at the school would come to Allen Arena to play as the Lipscomb’s pep band.

This lasted for a few years during the 2010s, and the partnership seemed to be beneficial to both schools.

“They [Hunters Lane High School] had band directors and participants, and they were willing to come do it, and then we were able to use some of the money we had allocated budget wise for people here.” said Hutcheson. “We just said, ‘well, hey, we’ll just use it for you guys’, and they were able to use it for band competitions and some things that helped them independent of us.”

YouTube video from Nov. 2014 of the “Bison Boombox” pep band during a game at Allen Arena.

Unfortunately for the two schools, logistics would eventually get in the way of what was a successful partnership.

“The challenge there was transportation.” said Hutcheson. “Getting them to and from because they’re high school students, and then if school was out it was difficult for us to get them here.”

Hutcheson also said that the athletics department worked with the College of Entertainment & the Arts to incorporate live band music; different from the traditional pep band that you’d see at a college game. However this came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and games in Allen Arena have been missing a beat ever since.

The most recent attempt at a pep band revival was in Sept. 2023, as Lipscomb Athletics made a public announcement of the intention to start a student-led pep band for the 2023-24 basketball season.

Interest in participation was seemingly high, with over 30 students signing up after the first day that it was announced, but the idea never came to fruition.

The pep band’s present and potential future

This brings us to today and with many different questions. Will a pep band ever make its return to games at Lipscomb? What will it take to make it happen? Does the athletic department even want to see this happen?

Recent history would suggest yes, and so would a recent announcement from Lipscomb president Dr. Candice McQueen.

In April 2024, President McQueen announced in her bi-weekly memo that the school has hired a new director of athletic bands to launch a pep band in the Fall of 2024.

President McQueen stated in the memo that the band will be a collaboration between Lipscomb Athletics and Lipscomb’s College of Entertainment and the Arts (CEA). She also revealed that the project will be led by Dr. Ronda DePriest, who was selected in was President McQueen described to be a national search.

Dr. DePriest comes to Lipscomb with over 40 years of experience in musical education and band direction and has worked at multiple schools at the collegiate and K-12 levels. Additionally, Dr. DePriest will teach in CEA department as the point for instrumental/band education.

The pieces are officially in place for a Lipscomb pep band to make its long awaited return. The only question now, is will it finally back for good? Only time will tell.