St. Ambrose University debuts its athletic band at football home opener

DAVENPORT, Iowa — It took many hours of preparation leading up to the St. Ambrose University Athletic Band's debut at the Fighting Bees football season home opener.

"We started August 16th and we had band camp all the way until August 21st," said Megan Cooney, Director of Athletic Bands at St. Ambrose University. The band camp included 14 hour days, in order to get ready for the 2016 football season.

St. Ambrose University hasn't had an athletic band in decades. It was announced back in December of 2015 that the university was introducing an athletic/marching band.

"It's really cool, I've compared it a lot to if you have an artist, it's like I've been given an infinite amount of paint and a big giant canvas and between myself and the students, we get to paint whatever we want," said Cooney.

Cooney says the band practices for four hours each week.

"Honestly, I am really surprised at how well we're doing since it is still so new," said Sarrah Hammond, a freshman at St. Ambrose and member of the St. Ambrose athletic band.

At Saturday's home opener, the Fighting Bees football team played Concordia University Ann Arbor.

"It's really nice to see how good we've become in such a short amount of time and we already have people emailing wanting to join in the spring, or now, or as soon as they can, so that's really cool," said Hammond, who plays the clarinet and is a drum major.

One of the reasons Hammond chose to go to St. Ambrose was the opportunity to play in the athletic band.

"I looked at a lot of small schools and this was the only small school that really appealed to me and they had a marching band coming so it appealed to me even more," said Hammond.

The athletic band plays from the bleachers of football games as a stadium band. The university hopes that by 2018, the band grows into a full fledged marching band.

On Saturday, cheerleaders and members of the dance team performed at the football game to the sounds of the live band for the first time.

"It brings a whole new atmosphere to the games," said Kendall Mckie, a senior on the St. Ambrose Dance Team. She says it's fun to dance to the band for her last year of college.

"I think it just pumps everyone up, they play new songs, popular songs, and it's so nice to have a real band for the fight song too," said Mckie.

The band plays a mixture of pop hits and traditional songs unique to St. Ambrose. The athletic band will march in the Rock Island Labor Day parade at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, September 5th.