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"We Are the Bones..."

A recent history of our section

by Adara Alston '99
Co-Section Leader

The band is full of many sections and instruments, so it takes certain qualities for one section to stand out against the others. The way you do this is by showing skill, by showing unity, and by showing pride in your section. Trombone and baritone horn players realize that we are in a whole band, but we also recognize our value and strength as a section. When you ask one of us what our roll is in the band, we say with sectional pride, "I am a bone!" The trombones and baritones are known as the bones, which is the absence of 'trom' in trombones and the absence of 'arit' in baritones (although they are sometimes called tones). The section is often times referred to by ourselves and others as "da bones," which is derived from a skit on the television show "Saturday Night Live" about the Chicago football team, "Da Bears". "Da bones" are comprised of a group of talented musicians with the main of objectives of playing well and always having a good time. Along with the pride of being a bone comes the confidence that we are the most talented and most important section in the band. The bones hold this belief by not settling for anything less than greatness. This, of course, does not mean playing is the only thing we think about.

One major aspect of being a bone is knowing that "it is not just an instrument, it is an attitude" and knowing how to have a good time. We do practice the music at the rehearsals, but we always find some form of amusement at these times. When it comes to band parties, the bones are historically the most social. There is a statement expressed by former drum major, Marshall Kohen `90, that we call "the quote" which best illustrates this. During the 1989 band season, an article about the Marching Band was written by Wade Kwon `90 in the Cornell Daily Sun. In this article, while describing the band, Kohen stated, "The trombones, in particular, are known for their general willingness to party". The truth that we have always known was then in print for all of Cornell, including the rest of the band, to see. When people think party, they think of the bones. This immortalized quote is now a major source of pride in the section and a testimony of our superior fun-loving mentality as compared to the rest of the band. Now all of the incoming bones sign their names on a banner displaying "the quote".

Another source of pride is our extensive list of traditions. Our wildest tradition is, undoubtedly, playing the theme from "Hawaii 5-O" after the half-time show at the last home game of the season. You may say, "what's so odd about that?" The thing that makes this tradition unique is that it is done after the bones have stripped down to Hawaiian/loud shirts and shorts. The section immediately runs around the track at lightening speed while bare-footed, and plays (as fast as possible) on the student side and then repeats this on crescent side after running their as quickly as bare feet can run on a cold, hard track. It is important to note that this is done no matter what the mid-November weather may be, but we always hope for a little chill and snow so it is funny. The bones also go around and play for the crowd, fully clothed and with our other bone music, at home and away games. The bones usually assume the shape of a "bone wedge" (one person followed by a line of two, then three, and so on) while walking around the track to play for each side. The bones have another tradition of purchasing sectional T-shirts and our unique bone mugs, which we have been acquiring since 1990. The mugs feature the bone crest on one side and the name of the owner on the other. We are the only section that has their own mugs.

To once again note our game day traditions, there are also several we do while parading. Among these are doing the "Splooie" (an exaggerated backward kicking while leaning forward and usually no one gets hurt), saying "here we go gathering nuts in may...", the 1-2-3 stomping step, the human typewriter in the four-by, cross-over lines in the two-by, and saying "dah-dah," all of which are done during the appropriate part of the cadences. We also did a "let's go boogie down...ugh" cheer, but that has decreased since the rest of the band started doing it (it was our cheer first!). To be unique and make it our own again, we either do this asynchronously or we will change around the word order (Ugh down boogie go... let's!!). We also bend over when the band comes to a rest so that the percussion can see the drum major cue them to stop, since the drum majors have been lacking in height recently. The baritone players, specifically have their own tradition during the parade called the "baritone groove", which is a hip, full-body exaggeration of the "up and down and side-to-side" motion with the horn. The baritones do the "groove" instead of the "Splooie" unless they don't call the "groove", in which case they do the "Splooie," but they have only been doing the "Splooie" with the trombones since 1993. One last bone parade tradition, is singing over the trumpets, because the bones must always out do the trumpets. When the trumpets start singing the "Trumpet Alma," we come in with "Cheer Cornell!!". The story behind singing "Cheer Cornell" is that Jeff Weintraub, a trumpet, wrote the lyrics. The song never really caught on after it was introduced, so the bones would sing it to "remind" him of this. Weintraub has since graduated but the tradition lives on. This is just one display of how much the bones and trumpets love each other.

Now that I have mentioned the trumpets, I can't go any further with out discussing "the rivalry". "The rivalry" has existed for several years and still continues. No one knows exactly how it started, but maintaining it is a crucial part of being in each section. When you have two sections that believe they are superior than the other, there is bound to be a little conflict, but it is all in good fun, most of the time, anyway. Relations have improven greatly since the early 90's, when "the rivalry" was at its peak. Now the bones and trumpets have been seen socializing quite a few times and no serious arguments have ensued. As a celebration of this newly discovered unity, the bones and trumpets held an event of epic proportion, or at least it was significant to us. These two sections came together one night in 1995 for the first party between the two, as far back as anyone can remember. It was titled "Hell Freezes Over," which is derived from the title of the last album by the Eagles, a popular band that had a controversial conflict. If the Eagles could make peace, so could the bones and trumpets. This is not to say that there is currently no friction amongst the sections, because there is, but most of the time it is to keep with tradition and have a good time.

When the bones are not waging war against the trumpets, we go around playing to promote the section or just to entertain people. We do this in several ways, one of which being when requested to do so by certain Cornell affiliated organizations. Whether it be for a few sorority sisters or an alumni celebration, the bones are always glad to play a few tunes. It is quite easy to play for the wide variety of events we do, considering our assorted music selection. We can play fun songs like the theme from "A-team" or Cornell classics such as "My Old Cornell". A great deal of our music is thanks to the arranging abilities of our very own Mike "Beaker/Bone 'Ranger" Stuhlmiller `94. The songs are arranged in four part harmonies, which creates a full sound allowing for the absence of other instruments. The first of the Beaker arrangements was the theme from "Cheers." This song is now a sort of theme song for the bones and several alumni and current members have nicknames that are character names from the show. There is also a "Cheers" dart board (purchased by Rich Kowalczyk '91 and David "Norm" Kroll `94 during the summer of '92) and backboard (which Craig Bloom `93 helped build) that is passed down from one bone residence to another. As for song uses other than for tradition-sake, the bones also use the songs as a recruiting method while going around campus and playing during the Saturday of the first audition. This is sometimes called bone-carolling , but there is only one real bone-carolling.

Bone-carolling is only genuine to its name when it is done on a December night in celebration of the holidays. The bones, being the festive group of people that we are, go around and spread holiday cheer through the gift of music. The bones play on North Campus, West Campus, Collegetown, and sometimes Central Campus. If there is snow on the ground and the temperature is cold enough to maintain the snow while not freezing the valves and slides, it is then the perfect carolling weather. We go around and play Christmas songs sometime early in study week. Considering the timing of our carolling, reactions can be rather varied. Some people feel that taking five minutes of their study time to listen to our humble section is just too much so they scream, "shut up!". This often times inspires us to move on to a place where we are wanted and yield to any feasible musical requests such as, "play Frosty!". We usually get at least one request like, "play 'Freebird,'" which is impossible since it is not in our repertoire, but it is always comical when people ask to hear it. Some years we get chased out of places while other years we acquire treats, such as home-baked cookies, for staying and playing a little longer. Last year, we even serenaded a Cornell bus driver! Once we have covered the whole campus, we go back to the bone residence of choice and warm ourselves with some hot chocolate. We then elect section leaders for the following year, the section leaders this year are Ed Hutchins `99 and myself. The prior year there were also two section leaders, Scott Southard `97 and Toby Emo `97. The dual section leader roll has been in existence since about the time David Chamberlin `94, former drum major and bone alumnus, gave the responsibility of electing section leaders to individual sections as opposed to having the drum major and show committee decide.

Certain things are traditions that no one set out to start but they just happened. So many things that the bones have kept doing just happened as a twist of fate. Who would have ever thought that misprinting the first name of Derek "Dersk" Vandivere `90 would later create a whole lineage of bones nicknames that end in "rsk"? When a few bones went to an event in 1988 involving Harvard University trombone players during a band road trip, who knew that our bones would discover the cartoon theme song we frequently play at games, "Underdog" (although we call it "Underbone")? Who also new that around the same time of this trip, we would also discover our "Evolution of the Band" idea, which shows the progressive order of instrument superiority that starts with the trumpets and peaks with the bones? We don't even know how playing the "New World" cheer started, but as far as we know it could have come about in a similar fashion. Some great things happen and no one knows why.

There is one thing that we did have control over and that is the bones being like a family. When someone says the word section, it can often times be perceived as group of people who play the same instrument and commit to attending most band rehearsals and performances with each other, but then go home and don't really speak to each other unless it is necessary. The bones are so much more than this. We hang out with each other, have varying relationships amongst each other, and in some cases live under the same roof. We may have our little disagreements but don't all families? We even have an extended family of alumni dating back as far as the class of `90 that maintain regular contact through e-mail and visit the Ithaca area a few times a year. There is such a strong bone turnout during Homecoming that we renamed it "Bonecoming". We have the best alumni relations of any "section" in the band, hence this creates a stronger family bond. We even welcome a worthy group of great individuals into our family that can not play the trombone or baritone horn and deem them bones. The bones are a true family. When you are amongst the bones, you are at a place "where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came..."

Written by
Adara Alston `99,
Bone Co-Section Leader
(with the assistance of bones of all ages)

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