Dr. Matthew Sadowski joined the UC Berkeley music department this year and has been working with Cal Band’s 240-odd members for the duration of the semester. In preparation for his first homecoming weekend as band director, Sadowski sat down with The Daily Californian to discuss the upcoming festivities.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you start by talking a little bit about yourself, your position and background?
Let’s see, my background — I played in band in public school starting in sixth grade, graduated and went to Michigan State University, graduated in 2007 with a degree in music education, focus in instrumental music.
Can you break down how Cal Band is preparing for homecoming?
So this will be our fourth show of the season, if you include our high school band day show. … This (show) is called “Generations of Love,” so we’ve got tunes that are about love from across different generations. We’re going to start off with “Somebody to Love” by Queen, then we’re going to go to “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters, and then we’re going to move from there to “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith and “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Bublé, and then finish off with “Marry You” by Bruno Mars.
How would you differentiate preparing for homecoming as opposed to other events?
There is a lot. These are what we call… a lot of what we have are called SHB — that’s Straw Hat Band. I guess the only difference from our vantage point is mostly time. We’re pretty accustomed to doing these; a lot of times we’ll call them a “three and out,” where we show up, play three tunes, and then we head out. It’s just that we have a lot more of those this week.
When it comes to preparing for a show like the homecoming show, do you pick all the songs or is there band input?
The band almost exclusively chooses those songs. It’s a student-run band. … There is a multistage process where students in the band can submit either single tunes or they can submit entire songs or shows, rather, with a particular theme. Typically, you know, we know the football schedule and usually we know when the homecoming game is, so people are encouraged to think about what would be an appropriate show for this day. What’s a good season-opener show? What’s a good show for the Big Game, for the Homecoming Game?
Do you have any Cal traditions you’re looking forward to with it being your first year?
Related to homecoming, I’m interested in maybe getting out and going to some of these SHBs, meeting with the people that are there. … We will play our Cal songs a lot. Cal has an extensive library of unusually well-preserved Cal songs. There were a lot of songwriting contests that happened turn-of-the-century, into the ‘30s, ‘40s, and a lot of these were originally written for, you know, small choral groups like barbershop quartets or a cappella groups, maybe with some piano accompaniment. A lot of them then got arranged for little string groups, instrumental groups, including the Cal Band. And they’ve just been very well-preserved. … There’s this very rich cultural capital that we put on display a lot.
What have been your favorite memories so far in your semester here?
I really enjoyed FTP, which is our fall training program that’s essentially where students who have submitted and passed a music audition are invited to come to FTP. … The other thing that I would say is, the one thing that sticks out to me is after the first home game of the season, the band has an event that they call Silent Walk, which is a private tour of the campus given by band alumni. … That’s kind of a cool event that stood out to me. And again, it’s something that doesn’t just happen — you can’t make up that history and implement it with any band.