Does the pep band bring pep to games?

The Kodiak High School pep band plays during a basketball game at home earlier this season. (Sam Friedman photo)

Pep bands are an element of most high school basketball games.

The band pumps energy into the gym by offering a soundtrack to the game. The band plays before tip-off and during halftime and timeouts — close games or not.

But, does the pep band really give players pep?

It depends on who you ask.

“I feel estatic when we come out and they are playing a song,” said Kodiak boys basketball player Elijah De Castro.

Some said the band does get them pepped, but they don’t play enough songs during pregame warmups to keep them pumped up.

“Sometimes it does, but there is a lot of pause between the music,” Raphael Matautia said. “When they start playing I’m like, ‘all right’ but then there is a four-minute wait between each song, which kind of brings me down.”

Others said they have grown accustomed to the music.

“Kind of, not really,” said Megan Grupp, a Kodiak senior on the girls basketball team. “It did when I first started playing, but now it really doesn’t phase me.”

Many players echoed Grupp’s sentiment.

“When I am playing I really don’t hear them,” senior Czarina Arbues said.

“I really don’t hear it sometimes,” senior Austin Cowley said. “The pep band is kind of like the fans, too. They are all into it.”

What about the coaches?

“They do a great job, but they make my life a little more difficult during timeouts,” Kodiak girls coach Brett Larsen said. “I lose my voice here at home because they play so loud and so good that I have to yell to my kids. Even though we are not doing anything wrong, I have to yell to try to be able to talk to them.”

The players notice.

“I can hear coaches voice get louder trying to talk over them,” senior Joanna Garcia said.

Larsen, who enters the gym six minutes before every game, said he blocks out the side of the court where the band and the cheerleaders are. He has to in order to stay focused during the game.

Kodiak boys coach David Anderson also said he doesn’t hear the band during games, but appreaciates they are at the games.

“I would rather have them playing than that music coming out of the machine over there (CD player),” he said. “I think they just bring the school together a little bit more with their school spirit.”

Kodiak High School music director Dale Lhotka has a love-hate relationship when it comes to the pep band.

Lhotka, the musician: “I’ve been on sports teams and it does bring the energy level up and it’s great for the students because they are supporting their team and bringing the community together.”

Lhotka, the teacher: “Playing in the pep band, in terms of developing musicianship and creating good habits of playing, is not the best thing for the educational goals that I have for my students … It might teach students some bad habits that sometimes I might have to break the next day.”

Lhotka has taken a more hands-off approach as the KHS pep band keeps evolving. This is the first year he has a student director in charge. That student is junior saxophonist Gene Gill, who joined the pep band in eighth grade. Senior Mitchell Davidson also helps with the coordination of the more than 50 members.

“It’s interesting to get to know what it’s like to be a music teacher,” said Gill, who has aspirations of majoring in music education.

He said he hasn’t had any players comment on the band or request a song, but he knows the band has a place in the gym.

“It helps bring up the energy and it also plays a role in all of the musicians’ musical development,” Gill said.

The band plays a variety of sports anthems, which include crowd favorites “Final Countdown,” and “We got the Beat.”

Lhotka said the band has a consistent menu of songs that seldom changes, so that alumni can come back and play.

As to what song to play and when, “There are times when a certain song can highlight something,” Lhotka said. “As the game develops, you try to put in certain songs to promote energy.”

Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at

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