The Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) Pep Band will be making some noise during the 65th annual Totem tournament in January.
The pep band first appeared in Totem 63 in 2018, with only a dozen or so students performing from the bleachers, and the new addition “blew everybody away,” according to ADSS athletic director Mike Roberts.
The band grew larger in 2019, and will now feature 55 performers in 2020. Finding space for them in the gymnasium has been a bit of a challenge, admitted director Josh Kynoch.
“It is tough, but it’s important that we don’t turn anyone away,” said Kynoch. “Not everyone is an athlete. This way they can use their craft to be a part of [Totem].”
Kynoch said the idea for the Totem pep band came from the University of Victoria. UVic has a high energy ensemble called the “Vikes Band” that plays during basketball games, so Kynoch said he borrowed from that model.
“There are lots of schools that have pep or marching bands,” he said. “We wanted to bring that to Port Alberni. It’s way too wet here to do a marching band,” he added with a laugh. “This allows our musicians to do something different. Then it can get them involved [with music] at university when they leave here.
“It’s another gateway to continue on with music.”
The pep band, said Kynoch, is just one thing that sets Totem apart from other basketball tournaments on the Island.
“We’re one of the few schools with a pep band,” he said. “It adds a little difference to our school. Our kids love it.”
Kayla Heiman, who plays clarinet, and Hannah Sam, who plays trumpet, are both Grade 9 students who are enjoying their first Totem tournament as members of the pep band.
“It’s very fun,” said Heiman. “It’s high energy, so we have to play very loud to try and keep the energy going.”
Their repertoire is varied, with songs ranging from Smash Mouth’s “All Star” to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
“We play pretty popular songs,” said Sam. “They’re songs that most people know.”
A few of the students running in this year’s Totem Spirit competition are involved in the pep band, but will not necessarily be representing the band.
“We are a big chunk of the school,” Kynoch explained.