As the Marching Pirates get ready for the fall semester, Band Director James Busuito continues to prepare to take his role in leading the band amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Busuito, the new Associate Director of Bands, said he initially was drawn to the position at East Carolina University due to the school’s location in North Carolina.
“I’ve heard great things about North Carolina for years. It’s a state that is increasing in population, and you really don’t hear anything but good things about it. And, when you start learning a little bit about the school, for me, it almost felt familiar. For me, that’s highly desirable to be a part of. That was kind of the primary drive for my motivation to join the faculty here,” Busuito said.
In his position, Busuito said he will direct the Marching Pirates and Basketball Pep Band, and will also conduct the Symphonic Band.
Prior to coming to ECU, Busuito said he worked at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, as the assistant director of the concert and athletic bands, as well as directing the Rutgers Symphony Band and instructing the Marching Scarlet Knights and Pep Bands.
“What I did up there was assist with the marching band, and I essentially ran the pep band there for basketball, and later on we actually incorporated volleyball into our performances,” Busuito said. “In addition to that, I had responsibilities with the school of music that involved directing a concert ensemble and teaching a methods class for grad students. I also taught conducting to students as well.”
Busuito said he believes his experience at Rutgers University will benefit him as he transitions to working at ECU.
The rehearsal process Busuito uses worked well with the bands he worked with at Rutgers University, Busuito said, and he believes it will work for the bands he directs at ECU as well.
“I think that the things that I do really uniquely well is that I have a process in terms of rehearsal that works efficiently. I don’t like for there to be any waste of time, and I know the students’ time is incredibly valuable, so I think the rehearsal process is very important. At least for me in the past, it’s been a pretty high level of performance,” Busuito said.
The performance of the bands itself is also an important aspect, Busuito said, whether it be the marching band or the pep band.
For the marching band, Busuito said he believes every halftime show “has to be a banger.” At Rutgers, he said the marching band would sometimes collaborate with other campus groups for performances. As for the pep band, Busuito said he’s looking forward to seeing what ECU has to offer.
“I know the basketball band here (at ECU) is already very strong, so what I’m anxious to see is what kind of force they (the pep band) are trying to impose on the opposing team. The same thing goes for football too, in between plays or during halftime, we’re supposed to be there to serve as a distraction against the opposing team,” Busuito said.
As for his plans for the fall semester, Busuito said he’s planning for various scenarios for the marching and pep bands.
These plans can include performing as usual while social distancing or performing virtually over livestream, Busuito said. He said he is prepared for the football season to be delayed or cancelled.
“Athletics has a lot of things to consider. For us right now, essentially what I’m doing as well as every band director in the country is we’re preparing for a variety of scenarios. Right now, I don’t have the information on it (the bands’ plans). It’s part of the waiting process, and seeing how things play out. It makes it very difficult for all of us,” Busuito said.
However, Busuito said he can also use this time to work on things the bands normally wouldn’t have as much time to do, due to rehearsal and performances. This includes working with the section leaders in the bands to examine the bands’ sounds and physical appearances while performing.
Regardless of what happens, Busuito said he will continue to advocate for and work with his students and keep them involved during the semester, although it may be difficult at times due to COVID-19.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to offer an experience this year. My planning process has essentially been that I am going to be planning for things as usual until I get told that it will be done differently. We’re sort of operating on a lot of assumptions, and things may change, and that’s okay. We’re going to adapt, and make sure that we’re there to kind of serve the role that we’re supposed to play,” Busuito said.
Mary Kiefriter, a senior music therapy major and drum major for the Marching Pirates, said she looks forward to Busuito leading the Marching Pirates this year.
Kiefriter said she met Busuito at the beginning of summer via WebEx. She said she appreciated his enthusiasm for ECU and working with the bands.
“He (Busuito) has been very encouraging and communicative to the student leaders as well as the members themselves throughout the changes we have to adjust to in order for the season to happen," Kiefriter said. "I look forward to his new perspectives on things like rehearsal, student leadership and game days. He is bringing an outside view to everything while still keeping our traditions that make us the Marching Pirates."
No matter what happens, Kiefriter said she is still looking forward to the upcoming semester and performing, as well as meeting new band members and working with her co-drum majors.
More information on Busuito and the Marching Pirates can be found on the Marching Pirates’ website.