Robbie Watters, a 2007 Sequim High graduate, was along for the ride as part of the University of Washington pep band as U.W. men's basketball team shocked more than a few hoops critics and advanced to the Sweet 16 at the NCAA tournament in March.
Watters, a junior at U.W., is a fourth-generation Husky whose sister, father, several uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather attended the University of Washington.
(Four other Sequim High grads - Olivia Boots, Kari Hankins, Alex Lamb and Steven Moore - also play for the Huskies but didn't make the trip.)
We caught up with Watters via e-mail.
Sequim Gazette: What's your role with the U.W. marching/pep band?
Robbie Watters: I've been on the road with the basketball team as part of the Husky Basketball Band for the last three weeks. I play sousaphone. The basketball band is an offshoot of the 240-member marching band. It's audition-only because the basketball pep bands are smaller due to the size of the arena and the fact that we don't march for them. We play at the home games all season long and based on seniority we're assigned to the tournament trips. I'm the sousaphone section leader and in my third year in band, so I got to go on all the trips.
SG: You also played at the Pac-10 tournament. How was that?
RW: Going into the Pac-10 tournament, we knew the team had to do well in order for the team to even make the NCAA tournament, so we were all very excited and hopeful that the team could continue its streak of playing well. The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAAs, so we were hoping to at least get to the championship game. The team strung together three impressive victories in a row, which was a lot of fun for the band and cheer squad because we head back to Seattle when the team loses.
They put all the band and cheer squads in the same hotel at the Pac-10 tournament, so it's a rare opportunity to mix with fellow band mates in the Pac-10 simultaneously. The fellowship of being in marching band always supercedes the competitive sports rivalries; I think it really says a lot about Washington and the Pac-10 that we can all get together and enjoy each others' company in that environment.
SG: What's the atmosphere like at the NCAA tourney?
RW: Upon winning the tournament, I got to go to San Jose for the NCAA first- and second-round games, both of which we won. The atmosphere at the NCAAs is similarly unique because you come into contact with bands and cheer squads from schools all over the country. Some of the band/cheer squads I got to meet include UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso), Marquette and Morgan State. Travel in the NCAA tournament is unique because we got to travel on a chartered jet with the team and administrative staff, as well as stay in the same hotel. Although we gave them their space because they had work to do, it's a lot of fun to be so closely associated with them. Coach Lorenzo Romar is a real class act and very down to earth. They give the band great seats on the floor behind each basket.
SG: And on to Syracuse...
RW: After winning both of those games, we got to go to Syracuse, N.Y., traveling in the same fashion. It was a similar situation to the first and second rounds, getting to meet bands and fans from Kentucky, Cornell and West Virginia. The game was a disappointment, considering we knew they could play much better than they did, but all in all it was the experience of a lifetime. Everyone is hyped up, yelling and screaming inside and outside the arena. On ESPN they said that the shape of the Carrier Dome in Syracuse causes the sound to be amplified on the court, over 100 decibels. Inside the arena, there were just as many Syracuse Orange fans as any team actually playing, since they were the host school.
SG: Did the Huskies get good fan support way over on the other coast?
RW: I would estimate that several hundred U.W. fans were able to make the game, including a couple who drove straight from San Jose when those games concluded, all the way to Syracuse. Former U.W. stars and current NBA players Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes and Nate Robinson all split a charter plane and arrived at the game at half time to a rousing applause from the U.W. section. Nate Robinson is a big fan of the band and requested his favorite song we play, "Johnny Q." We also got to see downtown Syracuse and take a look around the university before the game.
SG: Overall, was this worth spending some nonschool days with the band?
RW: All in all, I've spent my entire spring break traveling with the basketball team, band and cheer squad, and it's been an incredible ride. I'm really glad that I got involved in the SHS band and then the Husky Marching Band. Very few people get the opportunities I've gotten, so I couldn't be more thankful.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.