BATTLE OF THE BANDS…SAN DIEGO

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I’m not going to lie, I enjoy that The Peppas just cruise around town in their Partridge Family bus, looking to get a game, seeking about bands to battle. Who wants to barnstorm across America with me, Rodney and The Peppas?

BAND ON A BUS; THE PEPPAS CONQUER MANHATTAN

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We met The Peppas Friday morning and hopped on an open-air tour bus. The band  crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan and made its way onto the “Today Show” for the second straight year. Afterwards, we headed to Times Square, where we played outside the “Good Morning America” studio, then through the streets, and onto Madison Square Garden, where some other tournament is going on right now. Finally, we swung over to the iconic New York Public Library, where the band played about six songs and attracted a crowd of a couple hundred before we were shut down by library staffers we can only assume attended Richmond. Here’s a recap:

PEPPAS ON THE TODAY SHOW (AGAIN)

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We rode around all Friday morning with The Peppas. We’ll have our own video from the trip, which included stops all over Manhattan, up later, but here’s the clip of the band crashing the Today Show for the second straight year.

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EDIT: I pulled a bunch of photos from my iPhone and from around the Internet to give you a look at some of the scenes from Friday’s ridealong.

THE TAMBOURINE MAN

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Anna Bing with son Ellis earlier this season. Ellis Bingham joined the VCU Athletic Band "The Peppas" this season.

Anna Bingham with son Ellis earlier this season. Ellis Bingham, who has cerebral palsy, joined the VCU Athletic Band, “The Peppas”, this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Pep Band’s new tambourine player has no musical background, but he’s quickly become one of the most inspiring members of “The Peppas” a boisterous troupe that churns out inspired songs. His name is Ellis Bingham, and although he can barely talk, outside of a handful of words, he’s never spoken with a louder voice – the sound of his spirited, rattling tambourine – than now.

You can find Bingham at Rams games seated in his motorized wheelchair – decorated with a VCU flag and bumper sticker – at floor level, left arm jutting skyward, gleefully shaking his tambourine as The Peppas gyrate their way through another raucous performance.

Known to his bandmates as just “Bing”, Ellis has cerebral palsy, a disorder caused by damage to the cerebellum in developing brains. People with cerebral palsy can face a wide range of motor control disabilities. For Bing, that means a number of physical and speech impairments, including the inability to walk. He can’t sit up without assistance and speaks mostly through a voice computer.

While he’s been faced with those obstacles throughout his life, the 22-year-old Richmond native and his mother, Anna Bingham, have rarely accepted those limitations at face value.

Anna calls Bing her “miracle”. Born 16 weeks premature, Bing weighed just 1-pound, 7.5 ounces at birth and could nearly fit in the palm of Anna’s hand. He spent the next four months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MCV. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which occurs more frequently in premature births, when he was about a year old.

“You go day by day,” Anna says of those challenging early years. “If I knew everything at the beginning that I knew at the end, it would have been too much. You take it day by day. I think your attitude is really important, as well as educating yourself and honestly believing in your child and believing he can do anything.”

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‘THAT ANIMAL’ WAS LOOSE IN NYC

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We did it again. We let “That Animal” loose in New York. The VCU Basketball team was playing Boston College Saturday night at Barclays Center, and that’s all well and good – the Rams won 69-50, by the way – but when you get the Rams, you get the whole experience. You get the VCU fan base, a lovable battalion of college basketball rapscallions that want nothing more than to take over the arena. You get The Peppas, VCU’s unstoppable Pep Band, one which can change an elevator music atmosphere into an AC/DC concert in the time it takes you to fire up your iPod. You get, “That Animal.”

If recent history is any judge, it seems That Animal – outside of turning the Stuart C. Siegel Center into a garbage disposal, blades of sound and pressure spinning everywhere, bearing down on the opposition – there’s nowhere they’d rather be than in New York, assuming control of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Don’t think people don’t notice this stuff.

VIDEO: THE PEPPAS TAKE MANHATTAN

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Ride along with the best band in the land.

THE PEPPAS ON NBC’S TODAY; RIP AL ROKER’S EARDRUMS

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How awesome is this? The Peppas on the Today Show Friday morning. The band was so loud Al Roker forgot what league we were in.

VCU PEP BAND VIDEO OF THE DAY

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Thanks to Scott Wyant, who is pulling double-duty this semester with VCU InSight and in our office. Here’s a nice nat sound piece Scott recently put together on the VCU Pep Band, the Peppas.

PEPPAS IN PORTLAND

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This video comes via Matt Norlander’s fantastic piece on the Peppas. You can find that here.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON…

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Rebecca Morrissette (left) had to give up her athletic dreams, but now blends music and basketball as a member of the VCU Pep Band.

By Michael Schuster

Below the surface of Rebecca Morrissette’s charming, albeit reserved, persona, there’s sincerity and courage. Her modesty and desire to succeed is enviable, but it’s her strength that has guided her inspirational tale through adversity.

When she was getting ready for high school, Morrissette, a junior forensics major at VCU, began noticing a sharp pain in her knees that forced her to seek orthopedic assistance. On the verge of trying out for her high school basketball team in Chester, Va., she and her family sought the medical attention of one of the best orthopedic doctors in Virginia.

Morrissette was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which causes inflammation, pain, and swelling of the bone and cartilage of the shin. X-rays also revealed a patellar dislocation of her knee, a condition in which the patella is unable to support ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee, and causes extreme discomfort. Although these injuries are not uncommon for female athletes, the orthopedic surgeon recommended an invasive surgical procedure to repair the knees with screws and other mechanical incisions. However, the surgery would also effectively end her athletics career, a harsh reality.

“Sports were my life,” Morrissette said. “I tried to focus and take my mind off of this terrible news, but athletics is all I really knew at that point. I tried to focus my time on school, but it was really difficult. I felt disappointed, I cried, and felt a lot of loneliness for a long period after the diagnosis.”

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