From the late 1960’s through the late 1990s, athletic bands at Mason operated mostly as student-led and populated ensembles with little faculty assistance or leadership. For a period in the 1980s, the pep band was referred to as the "Mound of Sound." There were also instances of George Mason Athletics collaborating with local high school bands when they were not able to constitute bands of Mason students. This was the case until the 2005-06 season.
The Men’s Basketball run to the 2006 NCAA Final Four ignited school spirit and an optimistic outlook on the future of sports and spirit at Mason. As the student-run pep band won the Final Four Battle of the Bands, a collaborative approach between Andrew Flagel (then Dean of Admissions), William Reeder (then Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts), and Andrew Ruge (Associate Athletic Directer, Marketing), among others, led to the establishment of a full-time position in the then Department of Music. The position was charged with taking the existing student-led ensembles (Pep Band and Winter Guard) and building an even greater program of lasting strategic impact and significance.
The new energetic, boisterous, contagious performance style of the Green Machine Pep Band perfectly fit the overwhelming unifying enthusiasm for the unexpected run to the Final Four and the continued success of the Men’s Basketball team under Coach Larranaga. Assisted by an expanded budget, scholarship allocation, a one-credit course offering, and continuing basketball success, the pep band saw overall participation grow from 30 to over 200 members between 2006 and 2010.
The competitive drumline, formed in 2008, quickly won a series of regional and international competitions. Most notably, they won the 2012 Winter Guard International (WGI) Open-Class World Championship, and placed 8th in the 2013 WGI World-Class World Championships.
Basketball’s annual kick off event Mason Madness, starting in 2008, features a large production piece as the opening performance. The consistent idea has been to have choreography set to a live musical performance. Over the years it has become an increasingly inclusive collaboration of multiple ensembles dedicated to school spirit, athlete support/encouragement, and entertainment at basketball games.
3-day summer clinic for high school-aged students were held in 2008 and 2010. The 2008 clinic focused on Drumline and Colorguard performance techniques and included attending Drum Corps International’s (DCI) “Drum Corps in Fauquier” competition as spectators. In 2009, “Drum Corps in Fauquier” became “Drum Corps in Fairfax (DCIF)” held at George Mason Stadium. In 2010, DCIF was again held at George Mason Stadium in conjunction with the 3-day summer clinic focusing on Drumline performance techniques. The 18-time DCI World-Champion “Blue Devil’s” (Concord California) collaborated with our summer clinic instructors joining corps members and clinic participants in a joint educational experience.
The Green Machine Pep Band and Drumline, alongside other featured performers from the School of Music, performed the soundtrack for Mason’s 2010 Holiday Greeting video. Green Machine Director Dr. Michael W. Nickens composed the featured song “Love, Peace, and Joy”. The video won a bronze “Telly Award” as well as a “Special Merit Award” from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District III.
An amateur-recorded video of the pep band in rehearsal playing a medley of songs by Rage Against the Machine was posted to YouTube (and later, to Facebook) in February of 2011. To date, various posts of the video have been viewed over 100 million times.
”Breakfast with the Bands” was a showcase of pep bands in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) at the annual men’s basketball conference tournament in Richmond, VA. 2011 featured bands from Mason, Old Dominion University (ODU) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the music for the combined performance was arranged by Green Machine Associate Director Jeremy Freer. 2012 featured Mason, ODU, VCU, Northeastern, William & Mary, Towson, and Georgia State University, and the music was arranged by Green Machine Director Dr. Michael W. Nickens.
In 2012, Members of the American Legion Post #177 in Fairfax, VA made donations to purchase colonial period rope drums towards the formation of a fife and drum corps. The “Ceremonial Corps”, performed in Governor McAuliffe’s Inaugural parade in 2014. The corps leads Mason’s annual Spring Commencement parade of graduates from George Mason statue to the EagleBank Arena and appears at various university functions such as Mason Madness, Men’s basketball games, and George Mason’s Birthday celebration. A one-credit elective class has been offered in the School of Music since Spring of 2016, and an Auxiliary Enterprises grant went towards purchasing uniforms and fifes.
In 2014 the Green Machine Ensembles became an official department at George Mason University. Shortly thereafter in 2015, NCAA.com named the Green Machine “The #1 Pep Band in College Basketball”. As a result, the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates passed matching resolutions recognizing the Green Machine “for the band’s work to pep up the athletes and fans of George Mason University and to represent one of the premier universities of the Commonwealth.”
The Green Machine Pep Band had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with Lady Antebellum in June 2017. The performance was at Jiffy Lube Live and featured the Pep Band in front of a sea of energetic audience members.
In February 2018, Green Machine Ensembles joined forces with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for their newest corporate sponsorship. Just a few months later on George Mason University's Giving Day (April 5, 2018), Green Machine Ensembles hit a major milestone by raising approximately $19,000 in a single day to support the 9 different ensembles.