ECU communication major Joshua Kwiatkowski plays trombone for the ECU Marching Pirates, not as a requirement for his major, but because he enjoys being a part of the band. He is shown above during the band's Oct. 19 Homecoming performance. The Marching Pirates will perform Sunday at the Panthers game in Charlotte. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Marching Pirates to perform at Panthers game – as a family

Nov. 19, 2015

By Jackie Drake
ECU News Services

Wearing matching uniforms, they maneuver with precision across the football field. With each player hitting their mark in a memorized formation, they move as one.

No, it’s not the football team – it’s the marching band. And composing those formations underneath those uniforms are more than 200 individuals who are banded together by their love of performing for the East Carolina community.

The ECU Marching Pirates will demonstrate this combination of skills and school spirit when they travel to Charlotte Sunday, Nov. 22 to perform at halftime during the Carolina Panthers game.

“We are very excited for this performance; this will be our biggest crowd all year,” said band director Bill Staub. “This is a great opportunity for our students and great exposure for the band and ECU. Our fans at home are great, but it’s always fun to perform for a new audience.”

While the band makes community appearances in addition to home and away games, this will be the Marching Pirates’ first time performing at an NFL game since the 1990s, according to Staub.

Band members will have the added excitement of cheering on an undefeated team as the Panthers look to continue their winning streak when they take on the Washington Redskins.

“I am so excited about the Carolina Panthers game,” said junior Kristen Daniel, who is one of the band’s drum majors, or conductors.

Pictured above is the ECU Marching Pirates performance on the field Nov. 22 at the Panthers vs. Redskins game in Charlotte. (Video courtesy of ECU Marching Pirates,

“I have never actually been to a professional football game so I am thrilled to be performing at one! It's such an amazing opportunity and I am so glad I get to be a part of it.”

"You may not realize it just by seeing us on the field, but every single person who is in the ECU marching band is in it because we love it,” said trombone player Joshua Kwiatkowski. “When we put on the uniforms we put them on with pride, and when we practice as a group preparing the next show we are out there as a family, together, sweating in the heat, or freezing in the cold. We do it because we love it, and we do it because it is a part of who we are.”
mpMany Pirates football fans remain in their seats at halftime to enjoy shows by the ECU Marching Pirates, like the performance pictured above during the Sept. 5 game against Towson. (Photo by Jay Clark)

The Marching Pirates will perform a movie-themed halftime show for the Panthers, and they’ll also perform an extended version at the Nov. 28 home game vs. Cincinnati. Songs include a selection of James Bond themes, tunes from “Burlesque” to feature the dance team, and music from “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”  

The band was invited to perform by the Panthers after team staffers reviewed YouTube videos of their performances, according to entertainment coordinator Jason Bastian.  

“I had some friends who went to ECU and I had always heard good things about the band. I saw their videos online and they seemed like a great fit,” Bastian said. “I know our fans will enjoy this performance. They love hearing local bands. The Panthers are the team for the Carolinas, and we’re proud to feature our colleges and universities.”

The Panthers are paying for the band to travel in buses to Bank of America Stadium and back. The band will arrive as the game starts, rehearse during the first half at a nearby practice facility, and then stay to watch the second half after they perform before coming home.

“The Panthers are really rolling out the red carpet for us,” Staub said.

“I am really excited to see the band again,” said Steven Such ’07, a Marching Pirates alumnus and member of the Panthers’ drum ensemble PurrCussion. “When I was at ECU we got to go to a bowl game, but we never got to go to an NFL game. It’s really good to see local college bands showcase their talents in a professional setting.”

While this is Such’s second year as a PurrCussion member, he said he has been a “band geek” his entire life. After transferring from Johnston Community College, Such played snare drum for two years at ECU. He now works at NC State; PurrCussion members are paid on a part-time basis.  

“My favorite part is the excitement of the game and interacting with fans, and performing as part of such a great ensemble, like I did at ECU,” Such said. “I enjoyed every aspect of being in the Marching Pirates at ECU. Marching band is one of the best experiences a student can have. It can help you transition from high school to college and become part of a community, part of a family.”
mpECU Marching Pirates are perennial favorites in the annual Homecoming parade. A scene from this year's parade is shown above. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Like most families, band members spend a lot of time together. The Marching Pirates rehearse two hours a day three times a week. Members also practice their music on an individual basis. The band performs a new show each week, and all music is memorized.

“Memorizing the music is a challenge, but one that with good time management can be accomplished,” Kwiatkowski said.

“Being a drum major, there is a lot of work that goes into choreographing our shows that goes beyond our regular rehearsals,” Daniel said. “Though it is a lot of work, it is always worth it by the time we perform! My favorite part of being a band member is the feeling I get when we perform. It is such a rush to perform in Dowdy-Ficklen for our Pirate fans and that feeling never gets old!”

Of the 230 band members, only 40 are music majors, while 190 are studying other subjects.

“Every major at the university is represented in the band,” Staub said. “A lot of people have the misconception that we’re all music majors, but the majority of college bands are mostly non-music majors.”

Being a member of the band gives students an opportunity to learn not just music but life skills like teamwork and leadership, Staub said. “Our members come from different high schools all over the state and region, and they all learn to march together. Most members are in the band for four years, so that generational knowledge is important. The older members help the younger ones.”

“A lot of people see the marching band simply as a group that performs music,” Daniel said. “But what most of them don't realize is that it is so much more than that. Our individual love of music has bonded us together as a family.”

Pictured below, the ECU Marching Pirates are shown performing at halftime for the Nov. 22 Carolina Panthers game in Charlotte. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Brendle)