BERKELEY – Cal’s marching band is busy enough as it is preparing for the 116th Big Game at Stanford on Saturday. But that practice time is just a small part of what the university’s talented collection of musicians does during the entire week leading up to the game.
“There are about 30 performances, in addition to prepping for Saturday,” Cal band director Bob Calonico said. “It’s just crazy. They get all pumped up for the Big Game. Everybody is pretty excited about it.”
The band has performed at a variety of special events during Big Game Week, but it’s a workload they welcome.
“They are a bunch of great students who will go off a pier for the team and the coaches,” Calonico said. “They are as devoted as I’ve ever seen them. That has not changed.”
Calonico said the band’s relationship with new football coach Sonny Dykes and his staff has been stellar since the moment he set foot on campus. Calonico and Dykes met last spring and Dykes said he would support anything the band wanted to do to support the team.
“I have a deep appreciation for the Cal marching band and Bob Calonico – just how much passion they have for Cal and how hard working they are,” Dykes said. “They’re critical. They are there when we run out of the tunnel and they are playing music at the breaks. I look at our guys all the time and they are always reacting to the band when they are playing. I think it just makes them feel appreciated and feels like they have support. It’s a big deal. It really is.”
After the intital meeting between Dykes and Calonico, Dykes came to a band practice and signed some of the band members’ hats. The band, in turn, gave Dykes straw hats to give to his daughters, Ally and Charlotte. And before Dykes’ first game as coach against Northwestern in the 2013 season-opener, the band presented flowers to Dykes’ wife, Kate, and their children.
“Sonny has said, ‘Just go for it. Do what you want to do’,” Calonico said. “It’s been great. The team has come over after every game and we play the fight song for them and send them off to the locker room. They’ve been absolutely great.”
Dykes has made it clear since his arrival on campus that he wants to involve himself and the football team in other campus activities. The team attended a men’s basketball game last season and coaches and players have come to spirit rallies. Dykes also said he’s gotten to know some band members outside of football games.
“Just being them around them a little bit – they are just really, really good people and people that love Cal and appreciate what this university is all about,” Dykes said. “To me, college football is all about college kids supporting each other and college athletics. It’s about our team supporting the band and the band supporting all the different activities on campus. There is so much tradition and pageantry, and that’s what makes college football so fun.”