The Big Red Marching Band (BRMB), alumni, university officials and other supporters donned their red hard hats and gathered on Kite Hill Sept. 22 to celebrate the groundbreaking of the band's new building, which should be complete by Commencement Weekend 2013.
"We started thinking about it probably five or six years ago," said David Fischell '75, M.S. '78, Ph.D. '80, a university trustee and band alumnus who spearheaded the project. "[The new building] will have enough room for at least 180 to rehearse indoors," compared with the current band room, which is tight for even 120 people, he said, which was the band's size "when I was here in 1971. With 200 now showing up on any particular day, it's not safe to rehearse in that room."
A piccoloist in the marching and pep bands for eight-and-a-half years, Fischell has deep roots in the BRMB. "The band is family. It's been a part of my family - my brother, wife, both my daughters ... so we are a very connected band family and are extremely excited that with a lot of work we've finally gotten to today, where we can break the ground."
Fischell, wife Sarah ('78, M.Eng. '79), daughters Erin '10 and Jennifer '13; outgoing Alumni Association Chair Eva Chiamulera '97; incoming chair Lowell Frank '99; University Architect Gilbert Delgado; Kyu-Jung Whang, vice president for facilities; Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services; John Neuert, representative from Baird Sampson Neuert Architects; drum major Jess Reno '13; and Jennifer Goforth '13, band head manager, took to the ceremonial sand pile with their red shovels to mark the occasion.
Delgado spoke of the challenges of building a new structure near Schoellkopf Stadium: "It's obviously a very sensitive site because it's next to an iconic Cornell structure, the Crescent. The architects very skillfully developed a design that harmonizes what we already have here. It's made in such a way that it won't compete with the stadium."
Also at the ceremony, Reno read a tribute, written by trumpet player Owen Sheih '07, to Kevin Ballantine '10, a former drumline section leader who died in January from leukemia: "To all the members of the Cornell Big Red Marching Band: Each time you put on that uniform, remember that you're putting on generations of history and a treasured Ivy League tradition. When you're putting on that uniform, you're putting on the legacy of countless Cornellians who had the privilege of calling this band family. When you put on that uniform, you're putting on a connection to our friend and fellow drummer Kevin, who wished to see this day, to see this new band building which we will soon call home." Ballantine's family will dedicate the skylights of the new building in his memory.
While alumni have raised $575,000 in just the past year, the band is still short of the $1 million mark to complete the building. Yet Fischell said he was confident that the band alumni will rally. "We want to get as many Cornell band alums as we can; my goal is 500, to march on the field with the Big Red Band next year when we dedicate the building during Homecoming Weekend."
Others credited by Murphy for helping the building plan come to fruition include Andrew Magré, associate university architect; Charles Phlegar, vice president for alumni affairs and development; Anne DiGiacomo '80, fundraising project manager; Tammy Johnson, facility project manager; and Andy Noel, director of Athletics and Physical Education.
Natalie O'Toole '16 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.