Central Delaware
Wesley marching band all fired up for first Homecoming
Wesley College marching band drum major Amber Wiltbank, front center, poses Wednesday afternoon with band members, from left, Jose Santana, Chantz McKeller, Jazmine Stevenson, Kylie Liberty and Alainna Earl. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — While Wesley College students practiced lacrosse Wednesday afternoon, a saxophone player began to warm up on the sidelines.

A student sitting on the grass tested his drums. Students helped zip each others’ uniforms up.

The Saturday homecoming parade for Wesley will boast something new this year: a college marching band. They met Wednesday to practice drills at the Wesley West athletic complex.

In fall 2011, there was only a drumline at Wesley. A small pep band started playing in 2012. But this is the first year in recent memory that an honest-to-goodness marching band has stepped out onto the field for halftime at home games.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s also good because we’re starting everyone brand-new,” said band leader Brian Cass, standing beside a van packed with uniforms and instruments.

“Everybody has positive things to say about it. It’s a great addition to the football games.”

About 30 students have joined the band already, set to perform at home football games, department showcases, parades.

“It’s definitely attractive when you have a band and a choir, even to non-majors,” Mr. Cass said.

Most Wolverine Marching Band members aren’t music majors, although Mr. Cass said there’s a few he’s hoping will consider it. The major, too, is new; Wesley first gave freshman the option to major in music in fall 2012, with a concentration in music theory or music history.

Many students, like drum major Amber Wiltbank, came from playing in their high school band. To prepare for the new venture, they came to school a week early for band camp.

“I missed it,” Ms. Wiltbank said. “It’s fun for me. I’m not a music major but it’s a great way to relax.”

A senior, she played alto saxophone in the pep band last year. But the experience doesn’t compare to this year.

“We’re out on the field marching around playing music,” she said. “And we actually have uniforms, so we look a lot snazzier.”

A $20,000 donation from a Wesley alumna, Joan Bennett, bought new uniforms and instruments for the band, Mr. Cass said.

Ms. Bennett sang in the choir herself at Wesley and supports the arts there now. She graduated in 1960, when the music department was strong and the college had a band.

“This administration has been really supportive and really pushing into bringing this piece back,” Mr. Cass said.

Around campus, Ms. Wiltbank said friends were surprised when she reminded them to come out to games and support the band.

“They’d say, ‘We have a band?’ Their face lights up,” she said.

“Our first halftime, people didn’t even leave to get a hotdog.”

Staff writer Eleanor La Prade can be reached at 741-8242 or Follow DSNEleanor on Twitter.