Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Cameron Payne were some of the Phoenix Suns' superstar players in the 2023 season NBA playoffs.
But they weren’t the only ones making noise on the court.
They were joined by the PHX Drumline, eight current and former Grand Canyon University drummers known at GCU as the Havocs Drumline that were hired by the organization to perform at their playoff games at Footprint Arena.
The drummers, part of the four-time UDA/UCA Game Day Live National Champion Thundering Heard Pep Band, performed as fans arrived pregame, both outside and inside the arena. They also performed at end of quarter timeouts to energize the fans and fire up the crowd.
There had been plans for the drummers to begin this collaboration prepandemic, but it wasn’t until January that the possibility of a paid gig became a reality.
GCU Pep Band Director "The Professor" Dr. Paul Koch recalls his time as a performer and says he’s glad the drummers were able to experience the electrifying atmosphere.
“It's just fun, walking around the arena playing these songs that you've done before, and people enjoying it. Everybody's got their phones out filming you, everybody's cheering for the songs, so it's a fun time during the playoffs,” said Koch.
Alexis Gomez and Nicolette LoCoco, now GCU alumnae and current music educators, say they are grateful to have had the opportunity to perform at the Suns games.
“The people that we got to be with were amazing. There's a level of talent that we were surrounded by, like the dunk team, dance team, the whole hype squad and the people who are running the show. To be able to see a real game day experience and compare it to GCU was really interesting, like hey, that's the professional stuff, and we do the same stuff at GCU,” said LoCoco.
“It was a new experience for us as a group and for me as a performer. I think that the experience of being able to take what we've learned from doing nationals and performing on a different stage, then performing at GCU and getting to go perform on a different level with the Suns was just an awesome experience. It absolutely lived up to my expectations,” she added.
For LoCoco and Gomez, performing at the Suns games was new and exciting, but they knew exactly how to captivate the crowd.
“It just felt very natural — and not just for the two of us, but with the people that we drummed with. We just roll with the punches; this is what we do. This is the high-quality performance that we always bring,” said Gomez.
Koch and GCU Pep Band Drumline instructor Gary Juarez say the drummers are well equipped for the future.
“Now they have that experience where they can separate from, ‘This is what we need to do for school,' and 'This has to be for entertainment.’ It's kind of the best of both worlds and just a really cool thing to experience,” Juarez said.
Koch said Gomez and LoCoco will be focusing much more on the entertainment spectrum in their new educational music roles, and he hopes they remember to know their audience and find ways to center performances around them.
After a successful collaboration between the Phoenix Suns and the drummers, Koch and Juarez hope to bring the team back this season in much bigger numbers.
GCU News staff writer Scianna Garcia can be reached at [email protected].
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