Music, basketball and CSUN are not just for the young.The CSUN Alumni band provided the musical beats and melodic sounds for the Matadome court Feb. 4 to help kick off men’s basketball season.
“This is only our fourth game,” said Tom Marino, trumpet player. “It’s been a great response.”
The 44-year-old graduate of Northridge, who wore a red CSUN T-shirt to the game, said he supported bringing a band back to the games 100 percent.
“We got on the bulletin board here at the Matadome and people who come to the game would say we got to have a band back,” he said.
The band booked the event by contacting Erin Kiser, then the head of the CSUN Alumni Association. CSUN basketball games is a gig at which the members of the band say they get a good response from the audience.
“I like to be part of something that has so much enthusiasm,” said Tom Kolb, 52, guitarist.
The band, led by Marino, began playing at games three weeks ago.
Marino said he is excited about bringing the band back to its hometown university.
“We used to play for another school, so I mentioned to (Kiser) that she should get the alumni band to come and play.” Marino said.
Three players of the five-member band are CSUN graduates. Saxophonist Mike Nelson, 43, fondly remembers the days when he was a music major at CSUN.
“I was the only one in my class, in the music department, to graduate in four years,” Nelson said. He later raised his arms in the air with excitement, and shouted, “Look at us now!”
The band performed songs from popular groups, such as Outkast, Nirvana and Coldplay and also played classic jazz songs.
“Our favorite is Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’,” Marino said. “We like to put our own twist in everything.”
Keyboard player, Bob Remstein, 43, said he has known some of the band members for more than thirty years.
“We’ve played together so long that frankly any time we get together we practically read each other’s minds,” Remstein said.
Jumping from one song into the next during time-outs and half-time leaves limited time for Marino to whisper into a member’s ear for chord or key changes.
“There’s no rehearsing, ever. We just come up here and wing it.”
As the band set up before a January game, a fan shouted, “Play the fight song!”
“They clap after the song and they turn around and wave at us,” Remstein said. “It’s fun to be in a big place like this to just let loose for a couple minutes and then hang back and watch the game.”
Marino said a substitute band player will occasionally replace an absent band member. Each member keeps a list of 30 or 40 professional players for backup.
“I’ve got a list of my favorite players that I’ve worked with over the years,” Marino said.
As a professional musician, Bob Marino said he understands the responsibilities that come with the job, but he admits this is one of those gigs he never has to complain about.
“It’s a nice musical outlet from the regular gigs that we do.” Marino said.
Marino recalls his experience at CSUN was very musically engaging.
“I was very active in the music department,” the former Northridge student said.
Tom Marino said one of his favorite memories at CSUN occurred when he was playing in Joe Leach’s Jazz Band.
“A great time was just being in his band, going up to Berkley every year and winning the Jazz Festivals.” Marino said with a smile.
Kiser said she was excited the band has returned to perform at CSUN.
“To create that great collegiate basketball environment, we knew that having a pep band was a vital piece that was missing.” Kiser said. She said she was proud of making the decision to hire the band.
“Working with them we’ve seen tremendous results. We get calls all the time.” Kiser added.
Looking to the future, Kiser said she hopes to create a long-lasting relationship with the band.
“We want to make it part of the permanent landscape here for Matadome basketball,” she said.
For Tom Marino playing at the games will create an excuse for his daughter to come and support her dad.
“My daughter just got accepted here,” the proud father acknowledged.
Working numerous gigs and other day jobs has kept the musicians busy.
“A lot of us are working all the time so we’re just walking in 10 minutes before, throwing those instruments on our backs and going for it.” Marino said.
Remstein doesn’t show any fear. He says he has full confidence in the band’s performance level.
“Everything really holds together well,” Remstein admits.
Basketball fans at the Matadome can now experience the full taste of music at basketball games with the addition of the CSUN Alumni band. Guitarist Tom Kolb says he enjoys coming to the games for the cheering from the audience.
“It’s the number one reason I like playing here,” Kolb said. “Of course, I know it’s not us they’re cheering for, but it’s nice to pretend.”
Nia Guleyon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.