The Penn Band: you might have heard them scrambling across the football field, playing on College Green during convocation, or blasting the Mario theme song down Locust Walk. With marching drums and red and blue striped polos, this club boasts around 130 members and is hard to miss at Penn. And for its president, Jacob Linfesty (C’21), the band is as much a part of his Penn identity as the LOVE statue or the Quaker mascot.
As a high school senior, Jacob knew it was important for the college he chose to have a fun and committed band. A saxophone player since the 5th grade, he actively participated in jazz band throughout high school. When he was thinking about applying to Penn, he watched videos of the Penn Band performing, and he quickly fell in love. He wrote about the band in his college application essay, and he even met with a former drum major as a prospective student.
The club’s open, fun–loving attitude impressed Jacob the most. Unlike most organizations on campus, the Penn Band doesn’t require an application, audition, experience, or mandatory attendance for any events. Anyone can join—even if you don’t know how to play an instrument.
“I knew that if I came here, then I would have that group that I’d be a part of that would be my Penn family,” he says.
For Jacob, family is exactly what the band became. As he navigated freshman year, he attended rehearsals, played at football and basketball games, and went to the band’s social events. These experiences introduced him to many of his closest friends, including his current roommates. He credits the band’s close-knit culture and quirky traditions for being able to bring the group together. Everyone knows the school’s unofficial alma mater, “The Red and Blue,” by heart.
Being in the band was so rewarding that Jacob was always looking for more ways to get involved. Second semester of freshman year, he rose in the ranks to become the saxophone section leader, a position he held until he was elected president for the 2019 spring semester. As president of one of the largest organizations on campus, Jacob manages communications between individual sections, rallies members for performances, and works with other band leaders to plan fun events. Even though every performance is optional, members are ready to play at as many as 100 events during the year.
Jacob believes that people show up to play precisely because they aren’t required to. He says that Penn Band helps to fight against the pressure people feel to spend all their time engaged in academic or preprofessional activities.
“Having the opportunity to go play in band, mess around with your friends, and make some music, or perform in a dance troupe or a theater group, it can be a lot of fun,” he says. “A lot of students, especially in band, do it just for the opportunity to do something other than the usual academic activities.” He’s eager to highlight the importance of performing arts groups at Penn, especially the benefit of having a designated creative space in the Platt Student Performing Arts House.
“Having Platt House, being able to come here just to talk and do this interview, and having our own band room, I think it’s such a great opportunity,” Jacob says. “If we didn’t have this kind of atmosphere on campus, I think I’d have a significantly different college experience.”
As we talk, I see what he means. We’re sitting in the Platt lobby, a large open space with comfy couches and splashes of blue and orange color. An upbeat piano melody soars through the air from a practice room, accompanying the vibrato of an opera singer. The sound of other conversations hums softly in the background. For Jacob, just being in Platt, surrounded by music, gives him a feeling that can’t be replicated anywhere else on campus.