In the top row of the Missouri women’s basketball pep band, a baritone player stands between two sousaphone players. Eric Kegley should be playing the sousaphone, but he was stuck with a secondary instrument that he hadn’t played in 12 years.
Pep bands are staples of Missouri basketball games, and if not for some willing alumni, the women’s game on Friday and the men’s game on Saturday would have been uncharacteristically quiet. Members of Marching Mizzou, along with vital instrument parts, were in El Paso, Texas, at the Sun Bowl. So marching band alumni filled in, and made do when they didn’t have every instrument.
Kegley, 41, who was a member of Marching Mizzou from 1983 to 1988, has helped organize alumni pep bands for about 10 years. Several pep band members also participate in the annual homecoming alumni marching band, in which Kegley has participated in for 17 years.
“That was an adjustment I had to make, being in alumni bands,” he said. “I’d meet kids who say ‘You’re an alum? Well I’m a freshman.’ When I was already in band when they were born, that’s when you start feeling old.”
Kegley, of Columbia, spent much of the past week hunting down alumni to help fill the gap. Jim Arnold, who graduated in 1967 and now lives in Marceline, is one of the many who came. He sat a few rows down from the sousaphones with a trombone lying across the seats in front of him.
“This is my first time,” Arnold said. “I came because I got an email from Eric that said ‘help.’...I’m actually a euphonium, but he said he was a little short on trombones. I taught band for 30 years in Missouri, so it’s a little rusty, but it’s there.”
After a slight hitch in the beginning of the fan-favorite “Hey Baby,” the band has to start over. A few measures into it, everyone finds the tempo and the parts come together. Before long, the woodwinds put down their instruments and dance to the chorus.
“We never did anything like this,” he said. “Never played it. We played ‘Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses’ and a lot of Broadway show tunes.”
Arnold also said he never had to do horn flashes, moving the instrument side to side or up and down, which are now used in almost every song played in the stands. However, when the “Missouri Waltz” is called, Arnold kicks his feet in the famous three quarter time marching style, which is still used today during the pregame show.
Kegley also said there are minor differences between now and when he was in school.
“Little things have changed,” Kegley said. “So many arrangements are slightly different. The fight songs have just a few changes...But it’s still band. And it gives us a great chance to have kids who are in school, just out of school, or out of school quite a while, and gets us in one spot to cheer on the Tigers.”