Clint Pulver noticed it. The apathy. The empty seats at basketball games. The lack of school spirit.
The student body vice president during the 2010-11 school year, Pulver addressed school tradition in a council meeting, except he did so with a tangible idea.
Why not start a drum line?
The Dean of Students, Bob Rasmussen, liked the idea and told him to go ahead with it. It could have fizzled out like so many other campaigns to raise school spirit.
Pulver, a former drum liner at Wasatch High School, was writing out ideas on a notepad in his apartment when his roommate, Chad Workman, came into the room.
“What are you doing?” Workman asked.
“We’re starting a drum line at UVU,” Pulver replied.
“Yeah, sit down.”
Workman had never played the drums before, but to Pulver, that didn’t matter. He didn’t want talent as much as he wanted enthusiasm.
Another friend, Patrick Warner, joined in to form what Pulver calls “the three first original members of the Green Man Group.”
At the time, however, that identity hadn’t been established. Pulver was working on just that, doodling and writing out ideas for names and costumes between and during classes.
It was in one class where the figures “came to life” on Pulver’s notepad. Excited, he took his sketches of sunglasses and green spandex suit-wearing drummers back to Rasmussen. His response?
Dumb. Cheesy. Weird. Tacky.
Undeterred, Pulver continued to pitch his idea to friends and other school officials, hoping to find enough validation for the concept to stick.
He finally found it – in President Matthew Holland.
“I like it,” Holland said. “I think it’s great.”
Armed with an official go-ahead, Pulver ordered more suits and expanded his recruiting. Music department members joined. Student Life funded the costs. Members of student government wanted to join, openly confessing they had never drummed before in their lives.
As he did with Workman, Pulver accepted them all regardless of experience.
“I was more looking for passion than perfection,” Pulver said. “That’s kind of become the motto of the Green Man Group.”
They had a motto, a name, uniforms and equipment.
But, they still needed a place to play.
Pulver didn’t make formal arrangements with the athletic apartment. Instead, he simply had his newly formed group pack up their stuff and show up at a men’s basketball game.
Heads turned and eyes stared as faceless green men in uniforms set up instruments in one of the many empty sections of the UCCU Center. Who were they? What were they doing? Were they really going to play a bunch of drums in a near-empty arena?
Yes. Yes they were.
“We rocked the place,” Pulver said.
Fans and athletic department officials loved it.
“This was awesome,” they told Pulver.
The relationship became official. Athletics opened up halftime slots for the group to perform on the court and do full length routines. The Green Man Group also started featuring a break dancer. They began to interact with fans. Intense sports intro music and special effect lighting was added. Game attendance increased, an effect Pulver likes to think is at least partially due to the presence of his self started group.
The local Harley Davidson mascot was at one such game in early 2011. Impressed, he passed word of what he saw to the Utah Jazz mascot, Bear. He, in turn, invited the group to play at the Mascot Bowl in July, which was held in Lehi.
Intrigued, Jazz officials contacted Pulver, requesting more details and a video of further samples of their performances. After seeing those, the Jazz events coordinator called Pulver to request an in person meeting. They discussed potential arrangements of Jazz home game performances.
At the same time, Jazz officials warned Pulver not to get their hopes up. The NBA lockout was in full effect, and there was little evidence it would end soon.
When it did, on Nov. 26, Pulver got the phone call. Home games were assigned. An introduction was decided on.
The Utah Jazz Green Man Group, brought to you by Utah Valley University.
“Every time we perform now, UVU is represented,” Pulver said. “People now recognize UVU when they see the Green Man Group. They’re like, ‘it’s UVU! It’s UVU!’”
Between the third and fourth quarters of Utah’s April 4 home game against Phoenix, the group went out on the court of Energy Solutions Arena, surrounded by 19,911 people.
After playing one set, they started another, helped along by a small boy picked from the crowd. The boy enthusiastically set the beat for the entire number. The crowd joined in.
When the number was finished, one of the Green Men hoisted the boy over his shoulder as they walked off. The little fan waved back to the crowd, glowing after having played with what he surely thought was a professional group of drummers.
Neither he, nor the fans, knew that under Pulver’s inclusive leadership, his enthusiasm had already qualified him to join them.
By Matt Petersen
Matt Petersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.