Staff Turnover at Harvard-yAle 2023

by | Nov 18, 2023 | Community, Events, News, People

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Who is capable of making a 3-5 hour journey into a painstaking 8-hour drive, being two hours late to their own concert at the Harvard Club of NYC? None other than the Harvard University Band.

Now let’s be clear, our tardiness was not our fault. I don’t think there was a single person in that bus that would’ve chosen to leave upstate New York, go down through New Jersey, wait for hours in the Lincoln Tunnel, just to trudge through Times Square on a Friday night. But it’s also not like I had a frame of reference about what this weekend would look like.

A first-year’s experience at Harvard-yAle, especially when it’s an away game, is one truly like no other: wondering what “The Game” is referring to when you haven’t watched a football game all season, starting to understand why your professor wrote “yAle (BOO!)” on that day’s lecture slides, and a new, undying hatred for a school whose mascot is a misunderstood dog breed. Harvard-yAle becomes an especially unique experience for the first-year students in the Harvard University Band, I being one of them.

Harvard-yAle is special in the Band’s calendar, not only marking the last game of football season, but marking the last game with the current roster of staff. The Game is preceded by a nerve-wracking period of interviews and forums to decide the new junior and senior staff, so Harvard-yAle is a moment of celebration unlike any other celebration that a Harvard student experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, The Game was indeed stressful. I found out that weekend that the Band must be cursed when it comes to transportation, because we were late twice that weekend, once to the Harvard Club of NYC, and once to the actual yAle Bowl for field rehearsal. We did not have three of our five new senior staff members because they were sick with COVID, one of them being our announcer for our halftime show. The word “beginning” becomes the most difficult word in the world to pronounce when you’re announcing for the first time at the biggest game of the football season, I’ll tell you that much.

But, the end of our halftime show meant it was time for the Band’s Harvard-yAle traditions, which Prop Crew prepared for after field rehearsal, when they went to buy plenty of Ginger Ale. Senior staff predecessors (much love to Kyle, Travis, Justin, and Ja’Karri) emptied the bottles on their successors, some of which were less physical and more so in our hearts. As the Band chanted the names of each of the items that each member of senior staff needed for their roles, and as many of us became drenched (and eventually frozen) with zero-sugar soda, all the stress of that season melted away.

I stood next to the new Manager and the new Stud-Con after turnover, because it was too crowded to get back to my seat. I stood in front of the Band, with the battle for the Ivy League championship happening right behind me, under some bright sunshine on a 20°F day. Between each deafening cadence, the two-millisecond preparation we got before we were supposed to play, and the chilling gusts of wind that didn’t feel cold anymore, all that I was thinking in my head was:

To many years more (and hopefully a win during my time here).

The Band welcomes the new 2023-2024 members of Senior Staff:

  • Ja’Karri Pierre ‘25, Manager
  • Sylvia Whittaker-Traw ‘26, Drill Master
  • Oziel Flores ‘25, Student Conductor
  • Blake Bernhardt ‘26, Drum Major
  • Nora Penni ‘26, Schneider


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