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Big Red Band members celebrate at Homecoming luncheon

The Big Red Bands Alumni Association celebrated the plans for the new facility Sept. 17 during a Homecoming luncheon in Trillium.

A new home for the Big Red Bands

By spring 2013, the Cornell Big Red Bands -- the marching and pep bands -- hope to have a home of their own: a new 6,400-square-foot facility behind the Schoellkopf Crescent. The Big Red Bands Alumni Association celebrated the plans Sept. 17 during a Homecoming luncheon in Trillium. Groundbreaking is expected to occur in 2012.

David Fischell and Sarah Thole Fischell

David Fischell '75, M.S. '78, Ph.D. '80 and Sarah Thole Fischell '78, MEng. '79 gave the lead gift to the ongoing Big Red Bands facility fundraising campaign.

"A well-deserved space for the only real marching band in the Ivy League," exclaimed Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, the event's host. "It's amazing to me that, despite what you've had to call home, you've accomplished so much," she said. For nearly 50 years, the Big Red Bands have been housed in Barton Hall, where ventilation and instrument storage space are not optimal.

"I'm particularly pleased," Murphy said, "that we've been able to involve a number of students in the design process so that we understand what's important to students."

Although the design phase is still ongoing, planners have decided that the facility will have to be at least three stories tall, "because of the very loud sound pressures that emanate from a marching band," said University Architect Gilbert Delgado. "Those sound pressures necessitate a large building volume."

After a national search, he added, Cornell selected the architecture firm of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects of Toronto, which designed the award-winning Cornell Plantations' Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center that opened last year.

Big Red Band alumni cheer as the marching band enters Trillium

Big Red Band alumni cheer as the marching band enters Trillium.

The multimillion-dollar band project has been made possible by a lead gift from band alumni David Fischell '75, M.S. '78, Ph.D. '80, and his wife, Sarah Thole Fischell '78, M.Eng. '79, parents of band members Erin Fischell '10 and Jennifer Fischell '13.

David Fischell, who is a member of the Cornell Board of Trustees, said from the podium: "These kids really need a new space. The time has come to do something that has been needed for a long time, since I was in the band in the 1970s."

The Big Red Bands Alumni Association, which has more than 3,000 members, aims to raise the remaining $1 million needed from its members and other fans of the band.

"At 2013 Homecoming," David Fischell said, "we are going dedicate the new home of the Big Red Band. This will be the way to leave our legacy on the university we love, and the organization that still thrills me every time I hear them play. It will affect the lives of thousands of future band members."

At the luncheon's conclusion, the current Big Red Band, led by a drum major and five tubas, marched in twos into the tight quarters of Trillium to a standing ovation of former band members and their families.

In addition to its fundraising goal, the Big Red Band Alumni Association also hopes to gather 500 band alumni to play with the future Big Red Band at Homecoming 2013, at the new facility's dedication.

"And being band members," David Fischell added, "we'll have a hell of a party afterward."

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