Last week, students got their welcome back to basketball season with a spectacular performance from the Green Machine at Mason Madness.

Stephen Kline/Broadside

The Green Machine has been exploding in popularity around the region, frequently performing shows around the northern Virginia area at venues such as local high schools and Wolftrap.

“I have had so many wonderful opportunities to get involved in Mason’s culture and spread it across the country: Cleveland, Charleston, Richmond, Blacksburg and even Puerto Rico,” senior member Betsy O’Keeffe said.

Lots of present members knew before even stepping onto campus that they wanted to play for the pep band. They saw that the group’s energy and excitement made it one of a kind.

“I first saw them at an open house and all I could think was, ‘holy shit, I want to be part of that insanity,’” Zach High said.

The insanity he speaks of can be seen, heard and felt at every home game in the Patriot Center. The members are clad in their green and gold from head to toe. Doc Nix features his impressive get up and signature cane that he uses to direct the band’s raw power.

The bleachers shake to their beats and clatter during the away team’s foul shots. The air in the arena is saturated with its own sweet soundtrack to the game.

The band has approximately 80 songs and melodies that it features, and the list grows and changes a little every season.

“Songs we play are so new that you dig it, or older to the point that you haven’t heard it in a couple of years and then you hear it again and go nuts because of how awesome it is,” senior member Paul Bernfeld said.

Last year, the group’s video of one of its rehearsals covering Rage Against the Machine went viral on Youtube. A tradition maintained by the band is Mason’s signature theme from its trip to the Final Four in 2006. Coming out of almost every halftime, the band rallies everyone with Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer.”

When the buzzer goes off and the instruments become silent, everyone in the Patriot Center carries the tune through another round of the chorus, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in excitement.

The experience that the Green Machine provides is one-of-a-kind and reaches out to all fans in the Patriot Center, Mason or visitors.

“After one game, a kid came up to me, mouth agape, and asked me for my autograph. His dad said he barely paid attention to the game,” Bernfeld said.

The band is not an excluding type of organization with prerequisites, or one in which you are tested and tried out before admission. Doc Nix welcomes anyone who wants to play, regardless of his/her instrument and musical experience. This year, the band has added a harp and steel drum to its ranks. The wide variety of instrumentation is one thing that helps to set the Green Machine aside from every other pep band.

“We get compared to Virginia Commonwealth University because their program started around the same time, but their personality is so much different than ours,” Bernfeld said.

The Green Machine practices once a week and even offers an accredited course, MUSI 485, for students to take. A perk of registering for the class is that academic scholarships are awarded to a select number of students each year.

These students come early to set up and leave late after breaking down equipment.

Aside from providing class credit and an opportunity to represent Mason, being part of the group provides many social and networking openings.

The band features over 40 majors, students, alumni and local Mason enthusiasts.

“The Green Machine is great for kids who have just gotten to Mason because it creates an environment where you get self-confidence and meet a lot of people of all ages,” Bernfeld said.

If you think that the band is just a basketball-oriented group, you are greatly mistaken.

The group has played at soccer, volleyball, club football and Capitals games, along with events with the Wizards; the list continues to grow and the band is always busy with something.

“There is no way this band could ever be dormant for a season,” said Bernfeld. “It is not our personality.”

To get involved in the band, students only need to fill out an application indicating their interest and experience.

The application can be found online at  along with information, pictures, videos and information about other musical ensembles.