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"Thank God!": Gonzaga Band returns to March Madness in-person after COVID shutdown

After spending two years watching from home, the Gonzaga Bulldog Band is finally hitting the road once again to cheer their team on for March Madness.

SPOKANE, Wash. — For the first time in two years, the Gonzaga Bulldog Band is getting back on the road for March Madness. This is a big deal because instead of playing from the sidelines, the band spent those two years watching from home due to COVID restrictions. 

GU senior Britton Erickson joined the band his freshman year.

“Freshman year was the only full year we got to go to the tournament and play all throughout the whole regular season, and that was awesome.," Erickson said. "Then, unfortunately, it was cut short because COVID.” 

The music stopped for an unexpectedly long pause. Even when the tournament returned, spectators, including the band, could not. 

During that time, GU senior and student conductor Sara Whelchel anxiously waited to get back in the stands.

"I really missed the community aspect of it and getting to have that experience with my fellows Zags as well," Whelchel said.

But as they waited to return to the sidelines, the band’s pride for Gonzaga continued to build.  

“I think the last two years or three years the band has just continued to build up their energy for coming back," Whelchel said. "The Gonzaga band is already pretty well known for bringing a lot of energy to games. But I feel like somehow this year, specifically, we have just absolutely pushed that out of the water with our excitement to be here.” 

That energy was undeniable as the band returned this season to perform in the first two rounds of the men’s and women’s tournament. 

“I would have been bummed out if I didn’t get at least one more crack at it,” Erikson said.

When the Lady Zags played in Louisville, few students could make the trip, which is why Whelchel was happy to be there to support them.  

“For that that specific trip, I know it was very extraordinary for our band to be able to go and to offer that cheer and support for them," Whelchel said. "The team also acknowledged and recognized this a few times too.” 

Erickson followed the men’s team for the first two rounds. He said getting the chance to play in the tournament his final year as a Gonzaga student is like icing on the cake.

"This was not the college experience we were expecting," Erickson said. "But just knowing that I finally was able to get to  play in the regular season, and go into the tournament again, it is really just satisfying and fun for all of us upperclassmen in the pep band."

If you can’t make to the games and see the band in action, you can always follow "Gonzaga band" on all social media platforms. 

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