BY HALEY HODGES
Sometimes, the roles students have in college will persist past their graduation. For former Drake University musicians, this means coming back to visit and play alongside their bands once again.
Some band alumni still reside in the Des Moines area and can easily visit. Those who have left Drake in the last few years and still have ties to some of the students who were their classmates during their time in band may also come back to play with them.
And then there’s John Lee.
Lee, Drake Class of 1973, started his involvement with Drake’s bands during his first year in college in 1969 and has been coming back every year since.
“After I graduated, I was here in town and I maintained a relationship (with the band),” Lee said. “I was able to arrange my work schedule so that I could work a partial day, come to rehearsal and then go back and work for the rest of the day. The invitation was always there, and I enjoyed doing it and just kept going from there.”
While some alumni, like Lee, have become a staple in the band program for over 40 years in the making, those who attended Drake a little more recently are still always welcome to join the band whenever they can.
Adam Wood, a 2013 graduate, returns periodically to play at the basketball pep band gigs.
“I never planned to do it after I graduated, it’s just one of those things that’s kind of happened,” Wood said.
Wood has come back more this year to help fill in for games that the undergraduate students miss while on break.
“I knew enough people in the band still that when they needed alumni to come and fill in for some of the games over winter break, they texted me to see if I’d come play and I was like ‘Sure! Absolutely!’” Wood said.
More recently, when a pep band was needed for the Drake women’s basketball team for their tournament over spring break, they called in help from alumni to join the visiting Kansas University’s band, who volunteered to play in support of the women’s team at Drake. Wood, being in the area while most undergraduate students were not, joined in, citing it as one of his favorite memories from helping with the band.
Shortages in musicians are a key reason why alumni often return to the bands so they can fill in where help was needed.
“This year in pep bands some alumni came back because we needed them to,” Assistant Director of Bands Brooke Humfeld said. “In an ideal world, we’d have so much interest from the undergrads that we wouldn’t necessarily need the alumni, but they, of course, would always be welcome to come back.”
Regardless of their motivation to come back, those who do are always well received and appreciated by everyone involved in the band programs.
“There are a lot of traditions in the band that would die away if it wasn’t for a couple alums continuing them and getting the undergrads excited about them,” Humfeld said. “Alumni are kind of like the heart of the band because they tie in old traditions and everything that the band has stood for in the past.”