Whether on the football field at a bowl game or recruiting band members, Chris Keri exudes the boundless energy you would expect from a trumpet player for the Rutgers marching band.
Chris, a psychology major in the School of Arts and Sciences from Middlesex, New Jersey, is a longtime Rutgers fan who started coming to Scarlet Knights basketball games with his grandfather when he was six years old. Now he’s a Rutgers–New Brunswick senior enrolled in a five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program at the Graduate School of Education.
The Rutgers marching band has provided a friendly, ready-made community for Chris, who has been playing trumpet since fourth grade and signed up for the band even before his first semester. As recruiting manager for the band, he now assists Timothy Smith, director of athletic bands, and attends band competitions, contacts potential band members, and helps to plan band camp.
Over the summer, when we sat down for an interview, Chris was shuttling between jobs as a photo specialist at Walgreens, a supervisor at a day camp, a baseball umpire, and a recruiting manager for the Rutgers band. “I’m keeping myself busy,” he noted.
How did you end up at Rutgers?
I’d always gone to the Rutgers basketball games. My grandfather took me to my first game when I was six years old. It was against Lehigh, and it was Kids Day. I was the biggest fan. We would go to the games, and people would turn around and stare at me because I was cheering so loud. As I got older, I started to recognize how great Rutgers is academically, especially the education program and the Graduate School of Education. I felt it was the perfect fit for me.
You came from a small high school with a graduating class of about 150. How was it adjusting to life at a big university?
The marching band really helped. I met people in the marching band a week before I met everybody else. From my first day of school, I already knew if I had a problem, like what bus to get, I could call or text one of the band members and get an answer in a couple of seconds. My friends in the band are there for me, and I’m there for them. It was good to have people there to shrink Rutgers down to a 200-member group of friends.
In marching band, is it more important to play the notes right or to stay in step?
You definitely want to make it look good. If you drop a note or two, that’s not going to affect things much.
What’s one special moment for you from your time in the marching band?
We were playing an exhibition at Hillsborough High School, and when we played these Michael Jackson songs, there was this amazing crowd reaction. I couldn’t even hear myself, it was so loud.
For the uninitiated, what is band camp?
Everyone in the marching band goes away for about six days to Lake Greeley Camp in Pennsylvania. It gets us away from the distractions of campus. It’s a great time to learn the steps and the music, and also relax and swim and just come together and grow as a family.
What are Rutgers fans like?
You can’t beat a Rutgers crowd. Sometimes we can’t hear what we’re supposed to be playing. Then we just go with the fight song because we know it by heart.
What advice do you have for new college students?
Get involved. There’s more free time than you think. Find something that you may like and try it out. For me, taking up more time with activities helps me to plan my time. If you have too much free time, it’s harder to have an organized schedule.