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In the summer of 1993 Sacred Heart University played host to an unknown drum corps while they were in Connecticut for a competition. Shortly after, Duane Melzer was hired as the first band director for the University, and he put together a small Pep Band of 13 players to play for football and basketball games. By the fall of 1994, the band had grown to 30 players and presented its first halftime field show. This was followed by their first performance in the New York City Columbus Day Parade and Saint Patrick's Day Parade.
In 1997, following Melzer's departure, the University appointed Marvin McNeill as the new Director of Bands. Under McNeill’s direction, the Pioneer Marching Band experienced steady growth, reaching a membership of 65. During this time, the band began to make appearances at local and regional Marching Band events, showing off their new uniform design. The band also made its first appearance at the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The band also made its first visit to an away football game, traveling to Pittsburgh when the team played against Robert Morris University. McNeill wrote the Pioneer Fight Song, which is still the Fight Song of SHU, and is played at football, basketball, and hockey games.
In 2002 McNeill left to take a position with the University of Connecticut Band program, at which time Charles Bennedum was appointed interim Director. In 2003, Keith Johnston was hired as the new Director of Bands, and Charles Bennedum was appointed Assistant Director.
Marching Band "The Heart of Connecticut"
As the band’s reputation grew, they received a number of offers to perform at various shows and competitions both in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. In 2004 the Pioneer Marching Band made its first appearance at the Halloween Parade in NY’s Greenwich Village, performing for almost 2 million spectators. This was followed shortly thereafter by an appearance at the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in Stamford, Connecticut.
Recent media appearances by the band include a national television commercial for Verizon Wireless in 2004; an appearance on MTV in 2005; and an appearance in a national television commercial for Publisher’s Clearing House, also in 2005.
The Pioneer Marching Band has performed in Lancaster, Pennsylvania fat the Tournament of Bands, and at the Cavalcade of Bands PA Championship in Hershey. Additionally, the Marching Band makes regular appearances at Walt Disney World’s Magic Music Days parade at the Magic Kingdom.
Pep Band "The Beast of the Northeast"
In 2006 CSTV.com’s Rink Rat rated the Pioneer Pep Band better than Cornell’s “Big Red” band, especially praising the SHU band's varied repertoire, and performance of Soul Bossa Nova. The Pep Band performs at pep rallies, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey and special events.
University Concert Band
The University Concert Band performs music from the traditional wind band repertoire, as well as contemporary and modern works. The University Concert Band also commissions new works for band/wind ensemble. Membership is open to all students with a background in performing instrumental music who are enrolled at Sacred Heart University. A placement audition is required. The University Concert Band performs a Christmas Concert, and Spring Concert each year.
The Jazz Ensemble gives students the opportunity to develop their musical skills within the context of a variety of styles of jazz music. The Jazz Ensemble is often asked to perform for various events on-campus, and performs several concerts each year.
Sacred Heart University’s Winter Guard program, Terpsichore, performs at local and regional Musical Arts Conference (MAC) events, and regional and national Winter Guard International (WGI) events. Membership is open to any Sacred Heart University student.
The Pioneer Bands programs are supported by two organizations: the Band Council and the Lambda Nu chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.
The Band Council is the official representative body for the Sacred Heart University band programs. The Band Council bridges the communication gap between the band directors and students. The Band Council organizes events at band camp each year, as well as the annual band banquet. They also fundraise for band activities such as the Band Banquet and a trip to Disney World every other year.
Kappa Kappa Psi is a National Honorary Band Fraternity that promotes excellence in college bands. The Lambda Nu chapter at Sacred Heart University was installed on May 21, 2005. The brotherhood currently has 24 active brothers, 6 honorary brothers and 48 alumni.