CUMB–do you pronounce the B or not? The world may never know, but Bwog sent Dailier Finn Klauber to check out CUMB’s recruitment process last night. Last night’s events conveniently occurred at the same time as sorority rush. Gotta choose one or the other, we guess. Here’s the run-down.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t expecting the Band to run punctually. I was told to meet CUMB at the Sundial at 9 PM but it didn’t really seem like anybody had arrived yet. A decent number of people were clustered around the Sundial foundation, talking within an expanding circle of Bandies. A white tuba blared the Columbia fight song from the top of the Sundial while Bandies introduced themselves to the growing number of wide-eyed, clearly confused students who decided to join CUMB. “What’s your name? What year and school are you? Where are you from?”—the template conversations reminded me of a “soft” fraternity rush event. At 9:15 PM, it finally seemed like the majority of prospective Bandies had arrived at College Walk, as the nominal leaders of this get-together—who soon introduced themselves as the Drum Major and Personnel Manager—led us West on College Walk and North towards Teachers College.
To be quite honest, even if I tried I couldn’t find my way back to the CUMB practice room—a room CUMB affectionately calls “the Closet.” The Bandies led us up Broadway and we entered Teacher’s College through a side entrance, navigating the whitewashed halls and taking multiple elevators and stairwells until we had passed through all of the maze-like corridors of the building. As for what was inside the Closet, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I first noticed the degenerate level of alcoholism. A 2 liter bottle of coke—2 parts coke, 1 part vodka as I overheard—passed through the ranks, red International bags stood next to backpacks, brown paper bags covered what I could identify as 500 ml cans of Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, Bud Light Margarita, and Miller Lite. Glancing over the room, I could see a shopping cart filled with miscellaneous items—rods, traffic cones, a Christmas wreath, a Vineyard Vines foam whale hat—standing in the corner while a Bandie, later identified as the “Miscy” section leader, was rifling through the items.
The usage of these miscellaneous items by the Band didn’t take away from their instrumental talent, however. High and low brass, percussion, horns, and woodwinds all clustered around section leaders in different parts of the wonky semi-circle of chairs facing the conductor. For the first 10 minutes or so in the room, people just conversed with each other while instrumentalists jammed together. I looked over at the prospective Bandies on my right and saw two woodwinds who looked lost in the primitive noise production of the Band. I gave them an understanding smile; I, too, had no idea what was going on.
Finally, at about 9:45, the Bored (what CUMB calls their elected board) quieted down the room to introduce themselves and the Marching Band. They had been writing on the back of a flippable whiteboard during the free time, listing their nicknames, Bored positions, and phone numbers. Highlights of the presentation included the introduction of Santa, the Poet Lorax (she couldn’t spell Laureate so she went with an easier-to-spell word, I guess) and Ben the Spirit Manager, who not only manages the Band spirit, but the Band’s spirits. We even managed to complete a semi-normal round of icebreakers.
The Band was seeming pretty average at this point. I mean, sure, they were a bunch of iconoclastic, high-functioning alcoholics, but I pretty much was aware of that before arriving. Well, my entire view of the Band began to change when a Bandie walked in late. The Head Manager pointed this out, and the entire Band engaged in a sort of chant, which sounded like something Primary Schoolers would chant on the playground while playing patty-cake. The chant would end with a sentence that the late Bandie would use to rhyme their reason for showing up late. Of course, this interpretation could be completely wrong as nobody explicitly explained what was going on, but the number of times it happened pretty much reinforced this explanation in my mind.
This “chant” was one of a few weird elements of CUMB which popped up again and again during the night. The unspoken rules of how to respond to the periodic shouts of “Yo Band, yo Band, yo Band,” along with the late chant, the private Band newsletter, and the secretive G(TB)^2 all added minor cultish elements to the organization. The longer I stayed, the more I listened to, the more CUMB felt like an insular cult masquerading as a scramble band.
The structure of the meeting revolved around going through each of the four songs with periodic breaks for comments from the Bored and dancing. During the second song, Time Warp, non-instrumentalists jumped up and started dancing, some with half liter beer cans still in hand. I played a maraca, but couldn’t help joining in on some of the fun. Sure, they were pretty much a cult. But they still know how to have a good time.
The Drum Major called out that we had a five minute break after that—earning a response from the back of the room of “Is that what massa’ says to the slaves”—and Bandies continued to ingest sloppily disguised alcohol. Coming back from the break, the Bored had written all over the whiteboard again with information about future games, how to send in quotes for the Band newsletter, who to email to join the script writing process, and, of course, multiple giant penises. The Band finished up with a few more songs, plenty of Grease-like dancing in the middle of the room included, and information about the Yale basketball game and the secretive Band initiation. Comments from the Bandies regarding this initiation included that we’ll have to “stretch our legs or stretch our livers” as well as to please let the Bored know if we “have a latex allergy.”
On the way back from Teachers College—we were still following experienced Bandies because the Closet was so far out of the way—the Band sang variations of the Columbia fight song, except they were adapted to make fun of the other Ivies. Well, as they emphasized, they made fun of the other Ivies and “one state school: Penn.”
CUMB certainly made a solid impression, regardless of the alcoholism and cult-like elements. Their community, while secretive and squirreled away in a hidden closet of Teachers College, is incredibly open and accepting to incoming members. What we see at Orgo Night and on the field, a group of talented musicians who like to have fun by ribbing the rest of the Columbia community, is actually what CUMB is when out of the public eye. As I realized earlier, CUMB is pretty much a cult of high-functioning alcoholics who sometimes play instruments. And they’re great people, too.
CUMB’s next performances are tonight and tomorrow for women’s basketball at Levien Gym. Come through if you’re interested; initiation is next week.