VCU Pep Band: Primetime aspirations last past NCAA tournament

Mark Robinson
Staff Writer

In the aftermath of a storied NCAA tournament run, Joey Rodriguez flew out to Los Angeles to guest star on Lopez Tonight.

The VCU pep band hopes he’s not the only Ram that gets a chance to enjoy the late night limelight; they have primetime aspirations of their own.

“I would absolutely adore an opportunity to do late night,” VCU pep band director Ryan Kopacsi said. “The band deserves something like that.”

Kopacsi has directed the pep band for 13 years. He admits to being approached by media outlets prior to VCU’s Final Four game against Butler.

The offers came after the pep band crushed the competition in the Final Four battle of the bands.

“We were lined up to do interviews and appearances had the team made it to Monday night,” Kopacsi said. “It just wasn’t in our cards.”

The dream isn’t dead though. Thousands of views on YouTube, a flurry of local media attention and Kopacsi’s unorthodox style are working in the pep band’s favor.

Known for his charismatic conducting, Kopacsi, a former model, often ends up shirtless by the end of games.

“Honestly, that style just comes from me,” he said. “It’s just the groove that feels amazing and gets me going. It’s nothing planned, nothing taken from anyone else, just pure, raw me.”

The VCU pep band is anything but conventional.

Their in-game antics earned them attention from referees during the Rams Elite 8 and Final Four games.

While they aren’t heckling the refs, they blast tunes from funk mainstays Rebirth and New Blood Brass Bands, local sensation No BS Brass! and hip hop superstars Lil Wayne and Beyoncé, to name a few.

Junior Leslie Lopez has played piccolo in the pep band for the past two years. She thinks their success has helped fight the band geek stigma that haunts all pep bands.

“It gives me a sense of pride,” Lopez said. “You know the rep that band kids get about being nerdy? I feel vindicated now because we showed you can be in a pep band, play with energy and be cool.”

Keith Rafter, assistant athletic director for marketing and promotion, has overseen VCU’s pep band for more than seven years. He says that the pep band’s energy is what sets them apart.

“All the other bands you see are your standard, cookie-cutter pep bands, but our band brings more energy than any of the others,” Rafter said. “They’re a big part of the atmosphere at the Siegel Center – our biggest fans.”

“How often does a college basketball team give a rat’s ass about the pep band?” he said. “Our guys love them.”

As long as the pep band continues to energize arenas, the publicity will keep coming.

“We embrace the exposure. Our main goal is to put on a show,” Kopacsi said, “and when people are talking about you, one way or another, you’ve accomplished your goal.”

For more information about the VCU Pep band, visit their Facebook page here.

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