The Marching 97 practices their formation for Le-Laf at Stabler Arena. Eco Flame is a tradition where the marching band comes into classrooms to perform in the days leading up to The Rivalry. (Leo Liu/B&W Staff)

From the classroom to the field: The Marching 97 drums up spirit for Rivalry Week


Classrooms, libraries and other campus spaces were rocked by the force of Marching 97 on Nov. 18 as the band made stops touring campus to rally school spirit leading up to the Nov. 20 annual Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry game. 

This band tradition, called Eco Flame, sees the marching band storm into different classrooms playing one of its four spirit tunes in a drum cadence, said Devon Kolumber, ‘23, the drum major. 

“It’s probably like the most Le-Laf spirit (event, because) we get to include the whole campus,” said Aylin Ay, ‘22, who plays the piccolo. “It’s really fun to see your friends that are not in band.”

In the past, Eco Flame has taken place on Fridays. Marching 97 has gone into FML, Linderman, and even the dining halls for chicken finger Friday. Because there are now fewer classes on Friday, the band does its rounds on Thursday to have a better chance of interrupting larger classrooms, Kolumber said.  

“I just remember barging into every classroom and seeing the smiles on all the students’ faces and just them being so excited to see us,” he said, while reflecting on his first year as part of the Marching 97. “And they all pull out their phones and start recording us.”

Two years after the pandemic brought a halt to Marching 97, it is coming back for the annual Le-Laf traditions.  

“My first Le-Laf was home, so when we went and played all the tailgates with the 97, everyone was going crazy,” said Dylan Staniszewski, ‘22, who plays the alto saxophone. “The energy level at Le-Laf is completely unmatched to anything else I’ve ever done at Lehigh.”

 After the long break due to COVID-19, members of the band eagerly await seeing the crowd again on Saturday.   

Kolumber said in the past, Marching 97 has played at the annual bed races event, but it conflicts with the band’s busy practice schedule this year. 

 Over the last few weeks, the band has had a new show every week because of the recent slew of home games, Ay said. It has been a busy few weeks, but she said they will “make (Le-Laf) look its best.”

“I think it will work out and we’ll get it together in time,” said Marco Clark, ‘25, a trumpet player. 

The band’s practice before the game will be its final practice of the season as well. The group also has special plans for this final practice.

“(During) our last run through of that last practice, the show writer’s run off and then they are caught (by) band members, and are thrown in a hole that’s dug,” Ay said. “And they dump a bunch of water on them… and we also sing the alma mater.”

 After Marching 97’s last practice, Saturday awaits — gameday. 

 “We have our most dramatic show at Le-Laf,” Ay said. 

The set list for the band’s show includes “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Somebody to Love” by Queen, “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” by Train and “We are the Champions,” Kolumber said. 

Ay said alumni also come back and get to march with the band. She said they will fill in any gaps, so that the band’s formation looks perfect.

As the countdown to the game begins, seniors are reflecting on their last Le-Laf game as students.   

“It means more than just beating Lafayette,” Kolumber said. “We’re all about psych and getting people pumped and excited. It’s the one week where we can show as much love as we can to the school.”

While this is the last game for some, it is the first for others.

 “Being able to perform at Le-Laf is really cool, it’s kind of important for everybody,” Clark said. “I am looking forward to getting to know more about the tradition, and just seeing how many people are there to watch us, because I know there are a lot of alumni that come back for this game.”

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