Our Campus: John Zollars marches to the beat of his own drum

The UBC marching band is an element of life on campus that is familiar to most students. Playing at least one game each week, and practicing twice weekly, John Zollars is an integral part of this tradition. Beginning two years ago as the bass drummer of the band, Zollars is now the snare drum player and is critical in keeping the players and marchers on track.

A fourth-year anthropology major, Zollars had zero marching band practice prior to UBC, even though he hails from the States, the marching band capital of the world. "You kind of develop a fondness over time," said Zollars on the ‘Hail UBC’ anthem and rhythmic drum cadences. "It’s a finely oiled machine when you get to that point."

Evidently a drummer to the heart and soul, Zollars taps out rhythms at different points throughout conversation -- whether conversing about the music or otherwise. As part of the percussion section, keeping to the beat is his key role in the band. "It’s more difficult -- not to belittle any other instruments -- if you’re percussion because, for one, our equipment is just heavier," said Zollars. "Also, you’ve probably heard it: when there’s no other instruments playing, it’s just us, and we have to keep playing in order to keep everyone in rhythm; as a drummer you constantly have to be alert."

At least five times each semester, the marching band make their way down to the Thunderbird Arena, playing ‘Hail UBC’ and other crowd-revving themes before varsity games.

"It’s fun," promised Zollars. "Usually on the way back when we’re walking we’ll all goof around -- I came up with a thing where if everyone is dragging, I’ll stop, and we’ll yell ‘Hammer Time’ and everyone just plays Can’t Touch This, which is really fun."

With up to around 30 people at each practice and game, there’s a great camaraderie amongst the group, which is one of the reasons Zollars keeps returning year after year. With games like the recent Winter Classic, the band are encouraged by the huge turnouts. "We love that kind of atmosphere, it really motivates us to play. There’s definitely an energy we feed off and we’ve been thanked a couple times from coaches," said Zollars on the comradeship between UBC Athletics and the band. "Everyone’s benefitting."

When asked about the rehearsal procedures for such a prominent band (in stature and volume) Zollars accounts many an occasion where he has been asked to play quieter or move rooms. "One time we were scheduled in a room in the SUB, and unbeknownst to us, we were right next to a yoga class," remembered Zollars. "We had to drum on chairs and things that wouldn’t reverberate a lot of sound."

Another time during finals, members of the band were practicing outside the SUB, and received noise complaints from studiers in IKB. ‘It’s one of those things where you don’t know how loud you’re being until everyone else tells you.’

Marching band isn’t something Zollars saw himself partaking in when he joined UBC as a first year. But being involved with the band is infectious, and Zollars is keen to keep building the profile year on year.

"We’re still fairly new, so I think we all kind of recognize that we’ve rejuvenated what used to be there, and athletics is definitely hoping we can keep it going."