November 2011 may have been one of the most tumultuous months in recent college marching band memory. In addition to a tragic hazing death and scandal at Florida A&M University, the month included two band suspensions for inappropriate singing and band members being injured by football players.
The Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB), an Ivy League “scramble band” from New York, ran afoul of its athletic department after singing an altered version of the school’s fight song. Following a 62-41 loss to Cornell, bringing the team’s record to a lackluster 0-9, the band sang a version of the century-old fight song “Roar, Lion, Roar,” with disparaging alternative lyrics ending in, “We always lose lose lose; but we take solace in our booze.”
“The Athletics Program welcomes the band to our football games to promote school spirit and provide fan entertainment,” said an athletic department statement to the Columbia Dispatch. “We believe the actions of the band on Saturday, Nov. 12, were inappropriate and embarrassed our student-athletes, coaches, parents, and fans.”
After two days of widespread online media attention and an apology from the band, the athletic department reversed its decision, allowing the band to play at the year’s final home game against Brown. Subsequently, the football team had its first win of the season in double overtime.
Queen’s Bands Suspended
Similarly, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, suspended its band—the oldest and largest in the country— from all parades and activities for distributing a songbook with explicit lyrics deemed degrading to women. “This should be the most up-to-date, dirty, and complete songbook you’ll find,” reads a copy of the songbook published online. The band was banned from all remaining performances for the year. The university will monitor the band as it follows a plan of action to review its behaviors and practices, including human rights training.
“The materials, and the behaviours they promote, are unacceptable,” said Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of student affairs at Queen’s in a statement to the National Post. “They point to a sub-culture within the Bands where explicit, disrespectful and degrading language marginalizes community members who may remain silent for fear of exclusion.”
Toledo Musicians Injured
In other news, four members of the University of Toledo Rocket Marching Band were knocked over by the Northern Illinois University (NIU) football team. A miscommunication caused the football team to run out prior to the completion of the band’s pregame show.
A mellophone, piccolo and two clarinet players sustained possible head injuries and were examined by medical personnel. The incident was caught on camera and quickly went viral, leading to a one-game suspension of NIU player Jamal Bass, who appeared to purposely shove band members.
“I want to publicly apologize to the Rocket Marching Band and to the University of Toledo,” said NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren in a press release. “We are embarrassed at what occurred and take full responsibility for the situation. I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that something like this never happens again.”