Dayna Wichhart—Staff Writer
Last Saturday evening, the DeWitt Gymnasium opened its doors to some unusual occupants. Instead of the usual athletic teams gracing its halls, The Defender Band, wearing black polos and black pants, filed into the DeWitt. Sitting on the floor in a circle, the band devoured their four slices of Pizza Ranch pizza, chatting with those around them, learning names and excitedly discussing how the evening might go.
As the pizza boxes emptied, music professor Onsby Rose spoke about how he’s hoped for a pep band since he began working at Dordt University.
“You’re a part of making history here at Dordt and starting the traditions at Defender gameday,” Rose said.
After wiping the grease from their fingers, students climbed the back stairs to a rarely-used storage closet full of black cases of every size. As they dragged the cases out, the DeWitt filled with tuning notes, warmups, and the smell of valve oil. Once the instruments were assembled, Allegra Fisher, the Defender Band Director, led the long line towards the football stadium.
In spring of 2022, students received an email inviting them into the Defender Band, a group that would play at athletic events. Fisher would be the band’s head. She started working at Dordt last spring as Assistant Director of Instrumental Activities. Formerly, she taught at Kansas State University and worked with marching band, volleyball and basketball, pep bands, and concert ensembles.
Last year, Vice President for Academic Affairs Leah Zuidema and Athletics Director Ross Douma approached Fisher to help them start the group. Looking to change the gameday experience at Dordt, the two thought introducing a pep band could increase engagement and interest in athletics on campus.
Fisher accepted the position and worked to get students involved on scholarships and using new silver instruments.
“It’s a good group who enjoy what they do and do it well,” Fisher said after the first rehearsal. “I think Defender Nation will be a little shocked at what they experience on gameday.”
The day of Dordt football’s home opener, the band debuted the Defender Fight Song in the parking lot. The song itself is not new, but very few know the school’s fight song and it is certainly not a staple at athletic events.
As the band walked towards the gates of the stadium, heads turned. The band settled into the stands and prepared to play during the Morningside vs. Dordt football game.
“D-O-R-D-T! LET’S GO!” They shouted. Their throats became hoarse from chanting and playing.
Throughout the game, the band stood among the student section, playing snippets of songs such as the fight song, Y.M.C.A, and other classic stadium tunes. Despite the score strongly favoring Morningside, the Defender Band carried on, cheering loudly, pounding on drums, and playing music.
During the third quarter, the Defenders scored a touchdown, sending the band into raucous cheering and scrambling for music.
As the evening wore on, students trickled out of the stands. At the final whistle of the game, the Defender Band walked onto the field and stood together with the football team, cheer and dance team, and parents and students to share in a post-game prayer.
With more sports beginning their seasons, the Defender Band will continue to play at home football games, and will fill the DeWitt’s bleachers for Defender basketball.
“I hope that this year we are able to build a sense of what Defender Nation is and how music can help identify that by building comradery through music and traditions,” Fisher said.