Bum Band to make triumphant return

The Bum Band was only a memory at South Dakota State; a wisp of nostalgia alumni would reminisce about at reunions. The student-driven band was all but lost in the school’s history with only a nondescript yearbook photo, a snippet of a parade video and a few buttons proving the group existed. That was, until this year.

Members of the Hobo Day Committee took action to gather current students and to reinvent the Bum Band. Although the original Bum Band disbanded some time ago, the Hobo Day Committee thought a reincarnation of the band would add to the spirit of hobo tradition.

Grand Pooba Paul Dybedahl proposed the idea of starting the Bum Band up again to the bands coordinator Miranda Mack, who responded with enthusiasm about the opportunity.

“Miranda really got things going, got people interested, got them all together and I wanted to involve alumni this year, but I thought that for it to get off the ground it should be a group of students first of all and then we can incorporate alumni,” Dybedahl said.

Dybedahl brought the idea to Mack’s attention last spring, but she didn’t start to recruit until the fall. She introduced the idea to some members of The Pride, who seemed just as excited as she in starting up the band. Within 24 hours, Mack formed the Bum Band with 11 other members and a variety of different instruments.

All of the instruments used by the Bum Band are Pride instruments. Trumpets, alto and tenor saxophones, a euphonium, sousaphones and an assortment of percussion instruments together make up the band.

“I really wanted it to be kind of hobo-y if we had tambourines and cowbells and just random things, because I feel like a real hobo band would be pulling stuff out of trashcans to bang together,” Mack said.

Altogether, Mack said the band has a “jazzy” sort of sound. The band has changed some school songs to fit the tune. Instead of “Ring the Bells” it’s “Swing the Bells” and instead of “Yellow and Blue” it’s “Yellow and Blues.” But even though the Bum Band plays school songs, Mack doesn’t want to copy Pride songs.

“I didn’t want them to play only Pride tunes because it sounds kind of weird,” Mack said. “We discovered right away that when you have a traditional Pride song and take it down to the small little band, that it just sounds disappointing. So that’s why we try to swing the tunes a little bit and find more of our tune because it’s our own band and not just some littler version of The Pride, so I want them to play some of their own things separate from The Pride.”

But finding music for the Bum Band to play has been one of Mack’s biggest challenges in organizing the band. She didn’t have luck in trying to find what the band was like with such little evidence to go on, so Mack has made the Bum Band into her own and went along with what she thinks it should be.

“I think we can still get its essence, and it’s really, really fun to bring back that same spirit,” Mack said.

Mack said the experience of organizing the band is the most enjoyable part of her role on the committee.

“Since Bum Band is a new thing, I don’t have to ask anybody questions about it. It’s more like, ‘what do I want to do, what do I think is best’ and I kind of steer it. And it’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done all by myself and that feels really good, too,” she said. “It’s the least stressful part of my position because I get to steer it and make it what I want.”

Once Mack gathered members of the band, they started to practice at the end of December. Members met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 20 minutes after Pride practices to run through music together. Their first official gig was playing at the TedxBrookings event in October as people walked into the lobby.

The Bum Band will perform background music at Hobo Week events like Miss Homelycoming and Cavorts, which Mack believes is “right in our element” because it fits into the spirit of Hobo Day.

“I think it fits perfectly with the atmosphere and having the school spirit, and having that sound in the background at these events will add another layer of school spirit and excitement to them,” Mack said. “I think we’ll fit in perfectly and won’t be awkward at all.”