The Beginning: Transferring
Believe it or not, one factor that helped me make the decision to transfer to Westminster Choir College from The Hartt School of Music of U of Hartford (every little thing adds up, right?) was my eligibility to be in a band again. Hartford has a pep band for their basketball teams but, no offense to them, the group as a whole is totally lame (though they do get paid… what?!). I joined marching band my junior year of high school (after being a varsity cheerleader…right?) and also marched with the Raiders Drum & Bugle Corps. I missed band! I also love being silly, so the PUB seemed like a good fit. I’ll be honest, at first the transition was a little difficult—I really wanted our lines and marching to be perfect when we take the field for halftime, but I got over that.
Transferring from a school I didn’t like to a small, cliquey school of 400 was really difficult. Everyone had their group of friends and I didn’t seem to fit in with the freshmen. It takes a special kind of person to commit their four years of undergrad to a school that’s about ¼ the size of a high school. So although the school and programs are absolutely top-notch, socially, WCC was the furthest from a match.
How I joined band
I think that I heard sometime in high school that Westminster students could be in the PUB. I’m not sure who told me this, perhaps my band teacher or maybe even my mother… The semester before I transferred, I sent an email explaining my situation. Right from the get-go, I had a very warm welcome and an enthusiastic “we’d love to have you!” From then on out, I was really excited to go to a rehearsal. I missed the first gig, but after that I was at absolutely EVERYTHING. It really helped that Angelica Ortiz ’12 and I had been in the mellophone section together for Raiders. She introduced me to people and helped me feel at home. Immediately, I felt warmth and ease and knew that this was a fantastic opportunity.
People often ask me why I cheer for Princeton athletic teams rather than Rider teams. I find this to be a silly question. My love and spirit for Princeton is completely genuine. There’s no way you can be in the band and not whole-heartedly want to see the Tigers pull a fantastic victory over a much lamer school. Princeton is where my friends are, where my fun is, and where my heart is. Of course I will be a Tigers fan for life!
I’m sure everyone knows how great it is to be able to put on a uniform and transform into someone else. Not to the point of losing your identity, but juuust enough to feel excited about kicking over a few cones or waking up angry students from rival schools at 8 am. I don’t think I’d have this type of opportunity anywhere else. It’s nice to get away from an intensive classical music program to just have fun and not be so serious about music.
The two NCAA trips that I went on, Tallahassee with the women in 2010 and Tampa with the men in 2011, were particularly special to me. It can be difficult to feel so at home with the band while having the majority of the Princeton student body not entirely understand my unique situation. It was the best feeling to be told that I could go on the trip and have the cost covered as if I were a student. Not only did the band make me feel completely embraced in the Princeton community, the Athletics department did as well. That was a really special moment for me. The trips themselves were incredibly fun and I loved being able to travel so far to support my teams.
The Band has opened up so many doors for me. Sometimes I feel bad for mooching off of a school that I didn’t work my butt off to get into, but then I just try to convince myself that I’m being resourceful and not ruining anybody else’s experience. After getting excited about Princeton via the PUB, I then was in a Princeton University Players musical and even ended up joining the Glee Club, which is not student-run but instead part of the official music department. I was even section leader! (What???) Often, you’ll find me on the Street amongst my various groups of friends. The Band really helped me have a real college experience while still being able to be in an academic program that suits me. I love knowing that I have a solid group of friends who always have my back. I’m so incredibly thankful for this opportunity and I will FOREVER cherish the plaid.
-Jemma Stember-Young ’13