Pep and percussion resound in the chancery gym

Barb Arland-Fye
The St. Ambrose University Pep Band practices in the Diocese of Davenport’s gymnasium in Davenport earlier this month.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The energetic sound of the St. Ambrose University Pep Band rehearsing on woodwind instruments and snare drums rose from the first-floor gym of the Diocese of Davenport’s chancery to the upper-floor offices one night last week. Some might describe it as the sound of collaboration between St. Ambrose University (SAU) and the Diocese of Davenport. 

Pep band Director Golden Lund paused his baton and said to the 20 musicians wearing shorts and T-shirts in the slightly humid gym, “If we can do a very quick sectional … then let’s take a quick break.” The musicians were pumped up for the upcoming Band Day on the Commons featuring SAU’s Athletic Bands, Color Guard, Competitive Percussion Ensemble, and Symphonic Band. The gym provides a much-needed space for several of the bands to hone their performances.

“Use of the gym by St. Ambrose University was part of the purchase agreement in 2010 when the diocese bought back the chancery building and five acres of land that had been sold during the bankruptcy process,” Deacon David Montgomery said. “The diocese agreed to lease the gym to SAU for $1 each year for 50 years.  SAU needs the use of the gym to accommodate band practice.”


“They don’t only rehearse in the gym, they also store their instruments, etc. there because it is their leased space to use as they want,” said Bishop Thomas Zinkula. “They have done A LOT of work on the gym to make it suitable for their needs.”

Black drapery is among the most visible signs of the work SAU has undertaken to accommodate the needs of the pep band, indoor percussion team and color guard. Upcoming improvements include air-conditioning units, expansion of storage space and installation of a projector, said Megan Hobbs, SAU’s director of Athletic Bands and director of Indoor Marching Arts.

While the marching band practices in the Ambrose Dome off campus, the indoor bands previously rehearsed in a campus building now undergoing renovation. The chancery gym, just a 10-minute walk from campus, proved to be a good relocation site, said Hobbs.

From November to April, the color guard and indoor percussion team practice in the gym, on weekends. The pep band starts rehearsals in the gym in December. “It fits our needs. It’s similar to where we perform at basketball and volleyball games in the (Lee) Lohman Arena,” said Lund, who also is assistant director of Athletic Bands. The bands don’t rehearse in the arena because of the many athletic teams competing for that space. “We’re grateful to be able to have some place to rehearse.”

“It’s plenty big for us,” Lund said of the 32-member pep band. The gym also conveys a big sound, which is the reason for the draperies. They reduce the loudness. SAU freshman Eve Wackerlin, a pep band piccolo player, describes the gym as “really big and resonant. When I play the piccolo in here, holy moly, is it loud!” She appreciates the fact that the gym is open for practice. “Sometimes if you want to take a walk it’s nice to come here.”

SAU junior Sadie Steinbach, who plays the alto saxophone, also appreciates rehearsing in the gym. “We get our own space. I like how the sound resonates.”

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