Treehouse building and naked guitar playing: a talk with the new Tree

March 12, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

This year marks the 50th birthday of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) and the 12th anniversary of its beloved mascot: the Tree. After a week of treehouse building and naked guitar strumming, computer science major Calvin Studebaker ’15 beat out two other competitors to become Stanford’s next Tree, a role he has embraced with gusto since taking the reins from Nicoletta von Heidegger ’13 in February. The Daily sat down with Studebaker to get the scoop on his Tree Week tryouts, as well as what he hopes to bring to the table come football season next fall.

MADELINE SIDES/ The Stanford Daily
MADELINE SIDES/ The Stanford Daily

The Stanford Daily (TSD): I hear most students who try out for the Tree are in the Band. Are you a member of the LSJUMB?

Calvin Studebaker (CS): Well, not everyone who tries out has to be a member of the band, but I played trombone back in sixth grade for a year and that put me pretty far ahead of a lot of trombone players here in the band, so I decided to join.

TSD: Besides being a member of the Band, what other activities are you involved with at Stanford?

CS: The big one is section leading—I’m a section leader for [CS] 106B. I’m part of a gymnastics club that meets at the Ford Center twice a week. I joined the diving club so that I could use the high diving board for one of my Tree Week stunts.

TSD: Why did you decide to audition for the Tree?

CS: I had been in Band for a while, and I thought the Tree was just an awesome thing to be, and I could see myself going crazy and dancing and all that good stuff.

I’m also pretty good friends with Michael Samuels ’12 M.S. ’13, who was the Tree before Nicoletta, and I just saw him at a party one night, and I was like “How was being Tree? Do you recommend it?” and he was like “Do it! Do it! You totally should do it!” He said—regardless of whether or not you end up becoming Tree—Tree Week was one of the best weeks of his life. So far Tree Week…I wouldn’t say it’s the best part of being Tree so far, but it was such a highlight.

TSD: What were some of the crazy activities you did to audition for Tree Week, which began the day after Dolly Day?

CS: Right off the bat, I wanted my entrance to be coming out of a treehouse, so the night after Dolly Day, me and my friends spent all night building this treehouse outside of the band shack. We got pretty far, we built pretty much the floor, and then…this guy from the athletic department walked by and started asking us questions, and he’s like, “Did you talk to so and so before doing this?” and I was like, “No,” and then he was like, “Email this person before continuing!”

So we just had this platform, and my big stunt was going to be living in this treehouse for a week. The next morning I chilled up in the platform for an hour before everyone came, and I gave a speech as I descended the platform, and then I did flips and stuff off of the picnic tables.

For my next stunt, I went out in front of Coupa [Café] by Meyer, and I was just dressed up in a robe and haircutting cape, and I had Samuels shave a tree into my hair. It’s off center, but I think it looks good.

Then I took the clippers from Samuels, put them on the ground, stood up, ripped off the haircutting cape, and then I was just naked with this guitar, and I just sang this song that I wrote about why all the Pac-12 mascots suck and why the tree is awesome.

My parents were in the crowd because they were here for Parents’ Weekend, and they had no idea I was doing this. So I brought my parents up and stood with them, took a picture naked with the guitar. In the picture my mom is just so far away from me, trying to put her arm around me without touching me, but they were good sports about it. They helped me dye my hair later that day.

TSD: Have your official duties begun as Tree?

CS: My first sports game was Sprout Night last Sunday during a women’s basketball game. A bunch of old Trees came, and we were all dancing. I was dressed up like a sprout, and I had so much glitter on me. We were just rocking out, and then at half time, I got inside the Tree with Nicoletta, and then she burst me out from under the tree, and then she handed the tree over, and I put it on, and I was the Tree for the rest of the game.

TSD: How are you going to design your new Tree costume?

CS: There are a couple key things I know I want to do with the costume. As far as the structure, the past two years have really just been a backpack metal frame with just rings coming off of it with netting to attach leaves. I think that’s a solid design, so one thing I want to do is have leafy eyebrows on the tree that I can control from the inside because it would give the tree a lot more expression than just mouth open or mouth closed. And then you know, some iridescent leaves or some neon lighting leaves. I just want to make it really flashy and cool looking.

I actually found these stilts that have this metal arc in the back, so you’re taller, but you’re also really bouncy so it’s like a trampoline wherever you go. I really want to master them, and I think it would be awesome if the Tree wore these stilts. I’m scared I might break my ankle if I try to wear the Tree in those, so I might just pull them out every now and again for rallies and stuff.

TSD: Now that you’re the Tree, has your reputation changed on campus?

CS: So I thought I would feel a lot different. Honestly, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. After my first game as the Tree, it started to feel more real, like, “Wow, I’m the Tree now.” But it’s surreal. It hasn’t really hit me. I don’t think it will hit me until three weeks after being Tree.
But as far as being a big man on campus, I think that comes with other people knowing that I’m Tree, which I feel like a lot of people don’t necessarily. Still, at times I go places, and people see my hair, and they are like, “Tree!” or “Congratulations!”

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