The Pride Hits Their Stride
UND’s marching band celebrates 25th anniversary.
Homecoming Week was a busy one for the 150 members of UND’s Pride of the North Marching Band. Not only did they march in the parade and at halftime of the football game, but they provided a musical punch to several other events throughout the week.
The list includes President Andrew Armacost’s Wake Up to UND breakfast, the first-ever downtown pep rally, the Nistler Hall ribbon cutting, UND Athletics Hall of Fame Banquet, two volleyball matches, tailgating, football, and, to cap it all off, Saturday night’s exhibition hockey game.
Another Homecoming highlight: celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Pride of the North.
BRINGING BACK THE PRIDE
While bands have been a part of UND for most of its 130-year history, during the 1990s there was no longer a marching band on campus and what passed for a pep band was a handful of student musicians paid by a local radio station to play at hockey games.
That’s when Rob Brooks was hired with a charge to revive the marching band tradition.
“The idea was to bring back the athletic bands,” said Brooks, who still directs the Pride. “I don’t think they realized at that time what could be done. We’d never had a full program that encompassed all the sports and everything that we do as the Pride today.”
In the fall of 1998, Brooks recruited 14 students to be part of his new program he named The Pride of the North. Their first event was the Potato Bowl parade where they played from the back of a truck.
“When I look at the parades we do now and think back to those 14 kids that took a shot, it’s really, really great.”
By the end of that first year, the ranks of the Pride had grown to around 40 students.
Blaine Johnson, ’00, remembers well those early years as one of the founding members of the Pride of the North. He was back Homecoming weekend to march in the parade with the current crop of musicians.
Johnson says the significance of bringing back the pep band didn’t really register with him at the time, but he’s proud now to know he was part of something special.
He remembers the push for the pep band to add marching to their repertoire.
“I remember Marilyn Hagerty writing in the Grand Forks Herald about how terrible it was that UND had a band that didn’t march,” said Johnson.
Johnson says there was some apprehension from the band at the time. “We were pretty comfortable with where we were at.” But now he says it’s “awesome” to see how far the band has come with its largest group ever in 2022.
CELEBRATING 25 YEARS
Johnson was one of 75 band alumni who came back to march with the Pride as part of
the 25th anniversary Homecoming celebration.
Alaynee (Moen) Van Ornum, ’17, ’19, says she joined the band to be part of something bigger than herself. “I was a little scared when I came to college that I wouldn’t be able to find something that I could get into. When I found the marching band, it was just really great because I just fell in and found my people.”
PART OF SOMETHING
Ryan Bringgold, ’14, met his future wife in the band when he was a member in the early 2010s. “I was honestly kind of terrified coming to college. It was a big change for me moving away from home, so to be able to be a part of a bigger community, it meant a lot to me and it will mean a lot to everyone here today.”
Current members of the Pride say the feeling of community is still a strong part of the appeal.
Wyatt Jones had dropped out of the Pride after his first semester as a freshman, but the lure was too strong and he found his way back to the band. Now he’s trombone section leader and thrilled to experience the band’s resurgence following the COVID pandemic.
“To see all the people that are interested in music and to be part of the leadership has been so cool,” said Jones, a commercial aviation major. “We have a fire and passion for making music together. There’s something about that brother and sisterhood that’s just different. And I love it.”
We have a fire and passion for making music together.
Trevor Opsal says there is sense of pride in being part of the 25th anniversary edition of the band. “What I found here was just a love for the band, a love for music and a community that loves each other, too,” said Opsal, also a commercial aviation major. “We have such great leaders that have given us everything they have to keep this going. It’s really amazing.”
To attend a halftime-show band practice is to get a glimpse of all the effort that goes into those performances. The band gathers on a patch of grass west of campus where the lines of a football field have been painted to help the marchers identify where they should be in relation to each other and the field. Three drum majors on ladders help the band keep time while frequent breaks are taken for Brooks and other band leaders to give instructions.
Practice begins a week before school starts in the fall with a band camp that includes three practices each day. That intense training gives way to a three-times-a-week practice schedule during the football season.
Brooks estimates the band will play at about 100 games and events throughout the school
year. That’s a heavy workload, but it’s one the students are proud to tackle.
“I think these students want to be a part of something great,” said Brooks. “I would say about 80% of the band right now is non-music majors. A large portion of them are from aviation and engineering, but we have majors from all over campus. This is a unique time in their life where they can focus on what they’re going to be doing the rest of their life, but still have a chance to be in something to support the university and be a part of something that’s unique and worthy of their time.”
PRIDE IN THE PRIDE
The pride in their university is evident in the traditions that have taken hold over the years. The band ends every game with the playing of the Alma Mater and also ends each practice and meeting in a particular way.
As they gather together to go over any final instructions for the rest of the week or an upcoming show, Rob will ask if there are any final questions. Seeing none, he’ll call on a student who will ask “Fight Song and we’re done?” Rob will reply “Fight Song and we’re done.”
Then they will play the UND fight song, “Stand Up and Cheer” or sing it if they don’t have their instruments.
“People always ask me, ‘What’s your favorite part of the Pride?’” said Brooks. “And it’s always the same answer. It’s the students. Because seeing them care about something so much, it’s infectious.”
I'M WITH THE BAND
What does it take to prepare for the Homecoming halftime show? Go behind the scenes with the Pride of the North in the video below.