Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 19, 2024

Banana-waving tradition of JHU pep band at stake

By Heather Barbakoff | October 6, 2006

If you've ever been to either a football or lacrosse game, chances are you've seen a group of people bedecked in blue with musical instruments. This group of loyal Hopkins sport-followers is the JHU Pep Band and they have been playing at both home and away games for 35 years.

The JHU Band was founded in 1921 (the founder's identity obscured by history) and is best known for its motto, "Forcing merriment and MAYHEM! Since 1921!" Such mayhem is accomplished through the Pep Band's dedication to many traditions of both the University and of the organization's own. Since its inception, the band has missed only two football games in the last 35 years and absolutely none of the lacrosse games in the last 50, a tally including both home and away games. "We love to be there to uphold traditions and school spirit and support the teams," senior David Sher, president of the JHU Band Board and dedicated Pep Band member, said. There are generally about 15 to 25 members in the band, with as many as 10 alumni returning each year to participate.

Much like the myth surrounding the Hopkins seal, the band has some traditions, legends and amusing anecdotes of its own. The band performs the University's "Ode" at most home games, and performs both fights songs, "Johnny Hop" and "To Win," at every game, the latter each time Hopkins scores. Other University traditions that the band upholds is performing for the alumni during Homecoming. At Halloween and Christmas, the Pep Band goes caroling, performing such anthems as "Ghostbusters" in locations like the AMRs, MSE and atop the Gilman bell tower.

Additionally last spring the band performed at the wedding of two Hopkins lacrosse fans on Homewood Field. In 2005, a group of self-proclaimed "Hopkins Haters" showed up at the Lacrosse Final Four Semi-final and Final games in Philadelphia with signs reading "We Hate this Band" with an arrow pointing

at the Pep Band. After the game ended, the band posed for pictures with these signs and later gained possession of them.

The most prevalent band tradition however is based purely on a legend dating back to the 1940s or 1950s. The myth goes that there was once a lacrosse game where the fans were given a bagged lunch containing, among other things, a banana. At the end of an extremely long and close game, Hopkins managed to score the winning goal. Elated at this event, fans reached into their lunch boxes and pulled out the only remaining item -- a banana! The entire stadium celebrated the win by waving their bananas back and forth. Ever since then it has been protocol for the Pep Band to arrive at every game with a bunch of bananas to be waved in the event that Hopkins scores the winning goal. This tradition prevails today, and it is common to see the band and a few dedicated alumni fans waving bananas.

Despite the Pep Band's commitment to the University and the football and lacrosse teams, all is not currently well. The band has recently been having trouble obtaining the proper amount of funding to maintain these traditions at away games. On Sept. 23, the band missed its second football game. "This is extremely disappointing, both for me and everyone else in the band," Sher said. "We're working through all potential avenues to find a solution." Hopefully this solution will be found soon and the bananas will be able to wave on.

Anyone interested in joining the Pep Band is encouraged to e-mail

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