Lucky for him, a few years ago Indiana University Assistant Athletic Director for facilities Charles “Chuck” Crabb had two Angela Hawkinses interning for him, one being me and the other an IU women’s basketball player. Confusing? Eh, yep — he thought I would be bringing basketball skills to the athletics department. But, nope, that wouldn’t be me — the size difference, for one, which he noticed immediately: “She towers over you at 6’3”,” he said.
As I left his office, I saw his Crabb Band memorabilia — mingled with a variety of crab figurines — and I jokingly asked him, “What’s the Crabb Band?”
During the first week of fall classes, percussion and brass members of the IU marching band, the Marching Hundred, audition for a paid position in the 20-person Crabb Band. Crabb Band Director Tiffany Galus says, “The band’s performance takes place prior to the beginning of the game, during the entirety of the game, and during halftime.” This strenuous schedule is the reason Galus and Director of Athletic Bands David Woodley accept only members who exhibit a high level of play, are dependable, and will represent IU positively.
Crabb Band began soon after the IU men’s soccer team gained varsity status in 1973 and the team was fully engaged in Big Ten soccer. Several Marching Hundred members asked the department of bands chair at the time, Ray Cramer, if it was possible to take a pep band to the games. After hearing from other students as well, Cramer, with former head soccer coach Jerry Yeagley, developed the IU Soccer Pep Band, and it began playing regularly throughout the 1974 season. The Soccer Pep Band, which was housed in the IU School of Music (now the IU Jacobs School of Music) Department of Bands, quickly became a hit as the soccer team gained national prominence.
The band’s repertoire grew under the direction of Stephen Pratt, and Crabb requested the pep band play at more and more athletic events. Crabb “has been the longtime athletic department contact for bands, so we found it fitting to name the band after him,” says Woodley, and, sure enough, Woodley was able to change the band’s name to Crabb Band in 1994.
“It’s been quite an honor,” Crabb says.
In his 40 years as the assistant athletic director for facilities at IU, Crabb has been the go-to guy when making decisions regarding the construction of athletic facilities. He has recently been instrumental in building the addition to Memorial Stadium, the Cook Hall basketball training facility, and Bart Kaufman Field, which is widely considered to be the first college baseball field to feature only turf (no dirt). Crabb is also the guy with answers to anything. John Harmon, a sound and lighting technician, says, “I have always appreciated walking into his office with a question and, without fail, walking out with an answer.”
The Crabb Band matches the same high-level performance and nonstop dedication as the person it was named after. Today the band performs at all soccer games, as well as many other intercollegiate sporting events, and travels to NCAA tournaments with the men’s and women’s soccer teams. The band continues to be an audition-only group, and, thanks to Pratt, membership now brings an honorarium.
While members of the Crabb Band are all in the Marching Hundred, “not all Marching Hundred members can be in Crabb Band,” says Alan Hill, a four-year member of the Crabb Band. “Attendance, playing proficiency, and instrument type are the factors.”
Even though the band is small, the music reaches fans throughout the soccer pitch due to its use of only brass and percussion — three mellophones, five trumpets, five trombones, one baritone, three sousaphones, and three on percussion. Though Pratt says monetary compensation covers the hours of playing and preparing, in part, as a way to make sure the university is not exploiting students, Hill says it is “a combination of the love for music and friendship [that] keeps members coming back.” The honorarium also helps the band staff find the best, most spirited performers with good attitudes, Galus explains. And, as Crabb says, having the best performers allows them to perform at a high caliber, support Hoosier athletic teams, and be ambassadors of the university.
But all this professionalism doesn’t mean they don’t have fun. Brett Latman, a two-year member of the Crabb Band, loves how the band adds comedy to their performances, which includes lying down in the bleachers to “A little bit softer now…” during “Shout,” playing the “Indiana Fight” song in a jazz-swing style, and singing “Olé, Olé, Olé” in different styles (including metal, screamo, and “with reverence”). Even Crabb gets in on the fun. Crabb Band shirts often have a cartoon crab graphic on the back. “It’s a hoot to see,” he says.
A “hoot” or not, this band is a valuable addition to IU athletics. “The ensemble is appreciated greatly by the sports where it performs and adds greatly to the game day experience,” says Crabb.
Editor’s Note: There are several more chances to see the Crabb Band in action as the men’s and women’s soccer seasons come to an end. Click here for the men’s schedule; click here for the women’s schedule.