Cat Scratch Fever makes rag tag appearance

Alyssa Lambert

Hype and spirit are important characteristics of college sporting events. One way NMU attempts to bring more energy to sporting events is through the NMU pep band. Recently, a second pep band named Cat Scratch Fever came together to rally spirit at games.

At a Jan. 19 basketball game against Lake Superior State, both the NMU pep band and Cat Scratch Fever attended the game in hopes of playing their instruments, but one band was asked to leave upon arrival. Cat Scratch Fever is a ragtag pep band created for NMU students who have a passion for pumping up the crowd at a sports game through their music, no matter their prior band experience or musical talent.

This year is a self-proclaimed building year, and, as of now, it has seven to eight consistent members, two games under the member’s belts and an unmeasurable amount of school spirit.

While Cat Scratch Fever is a registered student organization, it does not have the same resources as the NMU sanctioned band.

Sophomore Will Barnwell is responsible for the spread of the fever. Last year, the secondary education major volunteered with the NMU Men’s Basketball team and often discussed the atmosphere at basketball games.

“The home games were very bland. People just came out and sat there,” Barnwell said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of hype for one of the major sports in college.” Barnwell then decided to organize a band responsible for making basketball games more entertaining and give people the opportunity to get involved in a unique way, taking to Facebook to recruit peers.

“We try to just make it a home for everybody and every musical talent,” Barnwell said.

The array includes typical pep band instruments like trumpets and saxophones, to crowd favorites such as the cowbell and the banjo. Cat Scratch Fever even includes two djembes, a type of African drum. Senior Dain Petipren, a saxophone player, used to play in his high school’s pep band. Now, the biology major is a “Sign Guy” at NMU hockey games, where he trash talks the opponents with other crowd members. He said Barnwell approached him about playing in Cat Scratch Fever one day while he was studying.

“I figured, since he’s one of my interns [for Sign Guys] that I’d hit him up with a favor and be in the band. Plus, I get to play ‘Careless Whisper,’” Petipren said.

“Careless Whisper” by George Michael is a crowd favorite, first heard at the game against Northwood on Jan. 21. Barnwell said when they play the tune, everyone turns their attention towards them.

Although they know how to pump up the crowd, many of the notes are improvised.

Barnwell said the administration has been supportive in their cause. However, the arrival of both bands at one basketball game caused confusion amongst the groups.

Dr. Stephen Grugin, music professor and director of the NMU band, said having his band perform at the basketball games has been in the works with the athletic department since the fall semester, something that has varied in years past. On weekends where there are hockey and basketball games, the pep band must pick and choose what games to play at.

“We can’t play everything,” Grugin said. “We have to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”

Cat Scratch Fever stepped in for the NMU Pep Band for the Northwood game and again for the Jan. 26 game against Ferris State University.

Junior zoology major Teressa Savastano, an NMU pep band member, assures there is no bad blood between the groups.

“It was just confusing for the most part because the athletic department has been nagging Dr. Grugin about getting a band at the games and then we showed up and there was already one there,” Savastano said.

Both Barnwell and Savastano expressed that neither pep band typically receives adequate notice before they are expected to appear at games, which sometimes is mere hours before they are scheduled to perform.

Since there are no more home basketball series, Cat Scratch Fever is directing its energy towards the future. First on the wish list are more songs with corresponding parts. Next, of course, is a larger membership base. Many of the band’s members are underclassmen, providing a solid base to carry on the group and help recruit new members for years to come.

The band also expressed a desire to branch out to play for other sports who are seeking more audience participation, like golf. Sophomore saxophone player Tiffany Dixon, a cellular and molecular neuroscience major, said her favorite part of being in Cat Scratch Fever is interacting with the crowd.

“We’re there when you need us,” said Dixon. “Like Batman.”