By Allyson Hinkle Staff Writer
My Welcome Week 2021 experience went off without a hitch; all the events were incredible, connections were made, and freshmen were thoroughly prepared for the first weeks of classes. Coming from the small town of Franklin, Texas, all the way to the larger community of UMHB, the atmosphere was completely different from anything I had ever imagined, and I am so excited to recount the memories made. As a freshman I enjoyed the time I spent with sophomores Sar ah Kmiecik and Caleb Guenther as they led my Cru Group throughout the week. However, I had to split my time between my Cru Group and another group that helped me make wonderful memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life: the Black shirt Cru Spirit Band.
My time with the Blackshirts started a day prior to Welcome Week, Tuesday, Aug. 3, because the band students were allowed to move in a day early, with similar treatment the rest of the freshman class received on their move-in. After everyone was moved in, the band met in the band hall at around 2:00 p.m. to start the day of practice for the upcoming Spirits and Traditions rally.
On that first day, band freshmen did not have to worry about balancing Welcome Week and Spirit Band camp schedules. So for that day, which was solely dedicated to Spirit Band, there were numerous types of practices before the group called it a day. Afterwards, the members of Kappa Kappa Psi held a bonding exercise for the freshman, in which I made some of my closest friends. The exercise, titled Car Tag, involved upperclassmen and freshman alike gathering into several cars and traveling to numerous spots around the Belton area that may be important to know about during their time at UMHB. Once the game was over everyone headed back to their respective homes and awaited the upcoming day.
The next day, Wednesday, Aug. 4, was one I was honestly nervous for: the official start of Welcome Week. In my mind I thought that the band would be strict about having to miss practice, but I was pleased to be proven wrong as the band was very accommodating towards freshmen. For instance, rehearsal and the Cru Group Meeting Two were scheduled for the exact same time. However, freshmen were encouraged by the band to partake in the Welcome Week event and then rejoin when they were ready. This was extremely encouraging to me as I did not feel pressured about keeping appearances and I could enjoy my time both with my Cru Group and the band. The rest of the day went by smoothly and just like that – day two of camp was complete.
The next day, Thursday, Aug. 5, was the final day of band camp and the day that we had been preparing for – the Spirits and Traditions Rally day. That day also proved to be the day that I was all over the place. The day began with the Big Fair, where I not only looked around at all the organizations but also helped set up The Bells table as well as others for close friends and their organizations. After that I went to practices scheduled throughout the day until it was time for a break or to go with Cru Groups. During this period, I spoke with senior field commander Logan Stone about his thoughts on the upcoming performance.
“The band over time has become more energetic,” Stone said. “I believe the energy of the freshman will be high and something to behold.”
Almost as if predicted, the energy from that night was electric. The Spirits and Traditions performance began at around 7:30 p.m., but the band got back together at around 7:00 p.m. to head to the stadium together where we waited in the tunnel for the cue to rush on the field. Whilst the band waited, the members spent the time in the tunnel getting one another excited or helped to calm one another’s nerves by conversing amongst themselves. What seemed to be a short thirty minutes later the band was given a cue from the Director of Alumni Relations Jeff Sutton to rush onto the field in front of the audience. From there the band played the UMHB fight song then after had a small bit of time to wait before the next song as the Sader Belles dance team performed. After the wonderful performance by the Sader Belles, the band then performed three other songs for the rally before it sadly came to a close.
Throughout the entire performance, the energy not only from fellow band members but from the freshman class was like something I’ve never witnessed before. The town that I came from had a positive mindset towards the band, but it was not as much of a priority as the football team they paid to watch those Friday nights. Therefore, not much energy was given towards the high school band and the efforts made to make the game more entertaining. After being a part of our performance that night in Crusader Stadium, it gave me a new perspective and drive to be a part of a band.
With that, the Blackshirt Spirit Band camp was over. For the experience, I have many people I would like to thank. First and foremost, I would like to personally thank Director Garasi and the UMHB administration for the preparation process of camp. As stated by senior Cory Gunter, the planning process started a month before band camp started in order to ensure as little clashing of schedules as possible for the freshman. To add to that, I would also like to thank the brothers of Kappa Kappa Psi for their efforts in preparing for camp as well, moving in early in order to help finalize the scheduling for camp and to help the band freshman move in that Tuesday, Aug. 3.
Overall I felt as if the three-day-long period with the band, as well as the entirety of the time spent at Welcome Week activities before classes started, was very helpful to me as it helped me work out some of the anxiety I had about meeting people in college. Coming from a smaller community, I was uncertain about the energy to be found within the band. I almost expected it to fall under the highly competitive atmosphere I used to with my high school band. However, the atmosphere of the group was very welcoming and caring here at UMHB. Director Garasi himself expressed this sentiment about working with students:
“We are not just working with them and teaching them music; they become a part of a social network. We all look out for one another,” Garasi said.