PHOENIX – After an especially cold and wet winter in Spokane, Washington, members of the Gonzaga University Bulldog Band warmed themselves from head to toe today – poolside in the 87-degree heat, preparing to root on the Zags in their first Final Four appearance on Saturday vs. South Carolina.
David Fague, who has directed Gonzaga’s ambassadors of spirit, music and merriment for 13 years, said the Bulldog Band is special. He and the band members won the completely unofficial “battle of the bands” — all in fun — at halftime against West Virginia and Xavier, their counterparts in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, respectively.
“The thing that separates us is we’re louder, we’re always moving, and we have more fun, thanks to the dedicated position of ‘fun-gineer,’” Fague said.
Meet “fun-gineer” Paul Bickel, a junior mechanical engineering major and Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership minor from Houston who plays the alto saxophone.
While it might look like the Bulldog Band is having a lot of fun, it’s hard work, says Bickel, the “fun-gineer” with a glimmer in his eyes. The road to the Final Four has been especially taxing, he said, smiling.
“Every game becomes a little more stressful,” says Bickel. “It’s a lot of responsibility that falls to me and our band to cheer on our team especially when we’re away from the Kennel, but we’re getting more boosters and alumni involved and it’s going very well.”
Bickel succeeds senior “fun-ancial advisor” Xavier Collantes, from Auburn, Washington, who plays the tenor sax and is a business major and computer science minor.
“Just being here for the Final Four is amazing,” Collantes said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end my time at Gonzaga and my experience with the Bulldog Band.”
Brooke Cummins, a sophomore business major from Portland, Oregon, plays the sax and serves as the band’s “social media butterfly.” She expects at least 700 students will be at the game as the full allotment of student tickets sold out.
Joe Panchesson, a junior earning a double major in music and environmental studies, plays trumpet in the band and serves is the student conductor.
Drummer Ian Anders, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Spokane, says playing for the Bulldog Band in the Final Four is a dream come true.
“I’ve always watched the NCAA Tournament since I was in first grade, and started playing the drums in fifth grade. I never imagined I would be here playing for the Bulldog Band in the Final Four,” he said.
Jack Hurley a junior from the Bay Area who plays the sousaphone and bass trombone, is the band’s president. Hurley, who is studying political science and sociology, says he’s soaking up the rays and this singular moment in Gonzaga’s history.
“It’s great to be getting recognition at the national level following such a successful season for the team,” he said. “This has been so much fun.”