Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Asbury youngsters help DU pep band ‘rock’ Magness Arena

They were off-key but happy. Eighteen bubbly, ramped-up, fourth- and fifth-grade musicians from Asbury Elementary School playing “We Will Rock You” during time-outs at the DU men’s basketball game in Magness Arena on Wednesday night.

They wore DU T-shirts and chanted “Let’s go Denver, let’s go!” They jumped to their feet whenever a Pioneer player scored a basket. They waited patiently for cues from pep band leader Joe Walsh to let them know when they could push their way through the song.

“They only know four notes,” said Asbury vocal and instrumental teacher Donna Medina, who wrote a special arrangement of the song by Queen “in a language the youngsters could understand.”

Medina has coached the Asbury kids for Wednesday’s performance since the beginning of the school year, with instruments the school didn’t have until a $30,000 grant showed up from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. The foundation has provided music grants for more than 1,600 schools since 1997, including nearly $2 million to Denver-area schools.

The result was an enthusiastic, though rambling, fight song that thrilled Asbury parents scattered in the crowd of 912. They snapped photos and beamed whenever the kids played.

“Lord knows they can play anything at all,” said Molly Ferrer, whose 9-year-old son, Julian, proudly puffed on a saxophone amid the array of flutes, clarinets, trombones and snare drum that comprise the 44-member Asbury Beginning Band.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done something like this, so we’re playing it by ear,” said Walsh (BM ’05, MM ’07), who oversaw the assortment of musicians nearly filling the stands near the north end of the arena.

During a succession of media time-outs, Walsh gave the kids a 30-second chance to play, then rescued the effort with a spirited performance by the pros standing by. These were members of the High Country Brass, who backed the kids with enough music to froth the arena and inspire the crowd.

High Country pinch hits for DU’s student pep band during school breaks, Walsh explained. Wednesday night’s game attracted about 20 or so of the High Country pros, who mixed with the kids and offered pointers.

The result was a musical mélange of beginners and finished musicians that provided all the pep DU needed to power its way to 62–55 win over eastern rival Lamar.

“We’re having a great time,” Medina said with a smile. “They’re really getting into it.”


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