As a fixture on the sidelines of the VCU basketball court, whether it is a men’s or women’s game, he takes his position directly behind one of the nets.
He’s not a ball boy, a manager, a coach or a photographer–he is Ryan Kopacsi, the director of the VCU Pep Band.
“My first impression was that he wasn’t like any other band director,” said Julie Pence, a sophomore and member of the Rowdy Ram student section. “I was just really surprised. He seemed to be having so much fun with things and he was a little risqué. He was just really, really cool and not like anything I’d ever seen before.”
Pence said the VCU Pep Band stands out from other collegiate instrumental groups because of their more modern musical selections that range from big brass pieces to Beyoncé songs, and of course, because of their colorful director.
Thanks to his outrageous dance moves, and fun-loving style of directing, Pence said Kopacsi has quickly become a fan favorite with students and families alike.
A recent interview with The Commonwealth Times unveils the man groovin’ with the Rowdy Rams.
The Commonwealth Times: When did you first become the VCU band director and what led you to this job?
VCU Pep Band Director Ryan Kapacsi: 1998 was my first year directing the band. I was approached by the athletic department to help bring a buzz to the new arena.
The CT: How often does the band get together to practice new music?
Kapacsi: Not very often. We have rehearsed maybe 10 times all year.
The CT: What goes into deciding which music will be played at games and new music selections?
Kapacsi: Whatever I listen to and I like. I certainly try and put some pop and hip-hop current music in the mix every year so people can relate to some of our stuff. Mostly, I listen to hundreds of songs and make choices.
The CT: Do you have a personal favorite piece that the band plays, if so why?
Kapacsi: “She’s a Keeper” by Young Blood Brass Band. It’s just a piece that has a groove and our musicians play it very well.
The CT: Everyone notices that you enjoy dancing along with your band and having a good time. How would you describe your style of directing?
The CT: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Kapacsi: The looks on peoples’ faces. I also love to see the band geeks have such a good time and gain the admiration of the fans for being a presence at the games.
The CT: What’s your favorite part of a basketball game?
Kapacsi: I love playing at home in front of a huge crowd in a close game and winning on a last shot or getting the crowd into so that we can win.
The CT: What has your history with music been like? What instruments have you played?
Kapacsi: I was a music education major at VCU. I play the sax.
The CT: Did you play in a college band?
Kapacsi: I played in bands for the university.
The CT: Do you plan to stay at VCU for most of your career?
Kapacsi: Yeah, I think I am niche person. You can’t sell this product everywhere. It’s perfect for VCU and what we have done here, but may be a bit difficult at say, maybe the second best college in Richmond.
The CT: When the band visits different schools do you rmd [??] that the crowd is just as responsive or maybe even more?
Kapacsi: The crowd is always responsive, good and bad. Most people love what we do, some really hate it. Nonetheless they can’t stop talking and that’s what we enjoy.
The CT: What do you think is one thing that the VCU band has, that other college bands don’t?
Kapacsi: We definitely have a moxy similar to athletes. When we walk into a place we know we are going to take it over.
The CT: What is one thing that you think people would be surprised to know about you?
Kapacsi: How shy I really am in “real” life
The CT: How would you describe yourself in one word and why?
Kapacsi: Total-package-great-superman-like-indescribable, I just made that word up! Seriously my word is measured. Most people see this fly by night wild and crazy show; and that sums us up pretty well and me, but I am extremely measured. I know how to push buttons how to get people to clap, boo, and say, “Oh my!”
The CT: Outside of band music, who is your favorite artist or group?
Kapacsi: Oh so many! I am going to get killed for this, but I am a huge Dave Matthews fan.
The CT: Do you have any favorite collegiate bands other than VCU?
Kapacsi: University of Richmond, they are 95 percent VCU grads that were in our pep band at one time.
The CT: What advice would you give to young musicians or just young people in general?
Kapacsi: Don’t take yourself too seriously. In a world of extremes be a moderate. Know when to be extreme. And if all of that didn’t make any sense this should bring it all together: The world and life is grey!