Meet Rachel Sharples (COM ’20): Photojournalist and BU Pep Band Member

If you have gone to the Dog Pound during a Boston University hockey game and heard a “GIVE ‘EM A RAZZLE-DAZZLE!” or an “I NEED ATTENTION!,” that’s probably coming from Rachel Sharples (COM ’20). A senior studying photojournalism on weekdays and a proud member of the BU Pep Band on weekends, Rachel loves to cheer on the BU hockey teams whenever she can. I sat down with her to chat about pep band, hockey cheers, and photojournalism tips.

Responses have been edited for clarity.

Rachel with the flute section of the BU Pep Band.

Photo Credit: BU Pep Band

Why did you join the pep band?

"Well, I was in band in high school and it was one of my highlights of high school because we were very pun-centric. I feel like this band isn't as pun-centric. But we would just rattle off puns and we were all very close because it was a very small band. I also don't think I'm that good at flute so I didn't want to try out for the concert band because it seemed like high stress. But then I heard the pep band was like 'Oh, anyone can join' and I saw the Scarlet Band play at orientation, which made me go 'ooh.' So yeah, just a couple weeks before school, I was like 'Yeah, why not?' and I signed up. Also, I was personally motivated by free hockey because, during my senior year at my high school, I learned how to ice skate with my friends. Back home, they make a homemade ice rink every year. But my senior year of high school was the first year I went and I tried to play hockey. It was mostly just me using the stick to hold myself up off the ice, but then I was like, 'Oh, I could go to hockey games and play flute. That sounds good.'"

What has been your favorite moment in pep band?

"Ooh, I mean, there's a lot of good ones. I'm going to give you two. All right, so the first one was in my freshman year when we won Hockey East. That was so good because it was such a stressful game and it was just insane. I don't even have a lot of specific memories of the game itself. But I just remember when we knew we were going to win and it was just totally awesome. It was in TD Garden so it was just so crazy and everyone was going nuts. That was the game where it was 0-0 through the third period. I can't remember if they scored at the end of the third period or went into overtime and then they scored. I think it was at the very end of the third period we scored, so it was a wild game because nobody was scoring and it was really back and forth.

There’s also the women's Beanpot last year because I had to come late because I came from work. So I was super frazzled. But then once I got there, it was such a good game and just the celebration afterward with everyone going nuts and the team was so fun. Also, this is a little more selfish note, but I happen to have my camera because I just carry my camera everywhere. And so I took pictures when they held up the trophy skating towards the band and then ended up on the front page of the Daily Free Press. That was the first time I had a main spread photo."

Rachel’s photo for the Daily Free Press’ article on the 2019 Women’s Beanpot Tournament.

You’re pretty well known for your cheers. What is your favorite cheer so far?

"Ooh (sighs). I think my favorite to say is 'Give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle' because it sounds like such a happy thing, but I say it very aggressively so it's pretty unique to me. Well, actually in my freshman year, someone else said that. But I don't know if they stopped or if I just said it once and I was like, 'Huh, I like this,' and I've kept going. Also, I do like yelling 'Study abroad!.' And there was this one time I yelled it and it was one of those where it was bad timing. It was like total silence and I was like 'Study abroad!' and this guy two rows down turns around. He's like, 'I love you,' and I just didn't know what to do. So I gave him finger guns (laughs). It was a lot.

The other one, 'I need attention' came from Joe. Joe was one of the flute section leaders during my freshman year. Actually, at the beginning of my freshman year, I didn't cheer, believe it or not. I was totally quiet because I was like, 'I don't know what's going on.' But Joe is very loud. He also had a pterodactyl voice, but none of us can replicate that. But he would be like, 'Come back, we've missed you,' and he started “I need attention” and 'Validate me.' Abby (another member of the flute section in the band) and I caught on because we were buds freshman year. So I took 'I need attention' and she took the 'Validate me' because I don't like that one (laughs), not that 'I need attention' is any better."

This is a cheesy question, but what does pep band mean to you?

"Because I’m very introverted, I tend to be a quiet person actually. I'm not much of a talker but pep band is kind of like a place where it's okay to be loud and it's okay to be absolutely ridiculous. But also, believe it or not, I’m not a people person, even though I'm in journalism and who knows how I ended up here. Pep band was one of the places where it helped me feel at home. That sense of community I guess was really nice, especially in my freshman year. But then I've just gotten more involved. Cheesy answer to a cheesy question (laughs)."

Photo Credit: Rachel Sharples

You’re not just a pep band member or a cheerleader. You’re also in photojournalism, so what is that like?

"Yeah. It's a lot of fun. Like I said, sometimes I'm like 'Why am I a journalist if I'm not a super people person?' But I just really like finding out different stories about other people that you might not necessarily hear about, or different angles to the same story that's been going on forever and all that. Even though I'm not a people person, I genuinely like learning what people think and what people are doing because people are very interesting. I love writing too but I think there's just something really cool about being able to encapsulate a story or a feeling of a place or person in just a frozen moment. It sounds kind of weird, but yeah. I mean, I've loved photography since I don't even know. I remember having one of those chunky digital cameras that were like that big (motions with hands) and from the 90s because it was my sister's. So I've always loved taking pictures, but then college has helped me actually be good at it, which is nice (laughs)."

What has been your favorite photojournalism project so far?

"Ooh (laughs). Now I have to think about what I’ve done. This is another thing. I have never been an athletic person all my life. I was like 'Eh, sports,' but I feel like at college, I come off as a sports nut because of my low-key, not even low-key, high-key obsession with hockey and I'm in a hockey class and I'm in a lot of sports games. So I really enjoy taking pictures of sporting events. I also feel like this year I've been able to find more localized stories. I think a lot of times, people in general, and even myself getting in photojournalism, are like, 'Oh, I want to shoot for National Geographic and go to the frontlines of Afghanistan' because it's amazing work. But I feel like this year I've really been able to work on neat local stories. I took some pictures at a florist in Cambridge. Right now, I'm working on a story about a place in the North End that’s specifically for people that work at sea or have worked at sea and has been open since 1847. I feel like finding neat little local things has a lot of weight and is important. It's not just like 'Oh, you have to travel.' I do want to travel, but that's not the only way to do good journalism."

So, you are graduating this year. Do you have any plans or worries for the future?

"Yeah, so I know I want to do photojournalism. I'd love to work at a newspaper, a news magazine, or something like that. But honestly, as to what organizations or where, I'd love to stay in Boston. If I could work at the Boston Globe or do an internship for AP News, that would be great. But I'm just getting out of college and because I'm graduating early, I don't really know. Just wherever I can find a place to do journalism."

What will you miss about being a student here?

"I feel like even though BU is a big school, if you're able to find it, there's a really cool community between pep bands and CRU, a Christian group I’m involved in. It's so easy to find people that you can connect with and I don't know if it's necessarily as true once you're in the real world. I don't know about the different connections I made, especially my friends. It's like 'Oh, I can see them on the way to class' or 'Let’s go to T. Anthony's after the hockey game.' But once we’re all real adults and working, it’s a little harder to do that kind of stuff. I love being in Boston and who knows where I'm going to end up next year. It could be in Boston, but it also could be in some random city in like Ohio or something."

Do you have any tips for aspiring photojournalists?

"I think don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. That’s the cheesiest thing ever, but it's so true because especially as a journalist, you're going to miss a lot of good stories and you're going to miss a lot of good connections if you're just working within your circle of comfort. But if you're willing to take that step outside, you could find a really neat story or really neat people. Yeah, it's hard, especially as an introvert. Sometimes I'm like, 'No, I just want to sit in my room and take a nap or read a book.' But once you get those conversations going, it's so worth it. Also, don't be afraid of people saying no because it happens and it's always going to happen. To be honest, I’m not a fan of person-on-the-street stories where you go and just talk to people about a random topic. People say no and they're like, 'No. I don't want to talk to you about impeachment.' There are those people that are going to say yes and you find out something new or super interesting out of it. So, it's okay to face some rejection in order to get to the good stuff."

Check out Rachel’s work on her website.

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