Q&A with Sam Weyen, the new Stanford Tree

April 4, 2016, 12:21 a.m.

Near the end of winter quarter each year, students interested in becoming the new Tree vie for the attention of the Leland Stanford Junior Marching Band (LSJUMB) during a two-week audition process called Tree Week. Many stunts later, at the conclusion of Tree Week, the one student who has managed to dazzle the Band emerges as the new Tree.

Sam Weyen '18, chosen as the new Tree by the LSJUMB, performs a stunt during Tree Week (NAFIA CHOWDHURY/The Stanford Daily).
Sam Weyen ’18, chosen as the new Tree by the LSJUMB, performs a stunt during Tree Week (NAFIA CHOWDHURY/The Stanford Daily).

This year, LSJUMB chose Sam Weyen ’18. The Daily sat down with the new Tree to talk about his journey to becoming the Band’s most prominent ambassador.


The Stanford Daily (TSD): When did you first become interested in becoming the Tree?

Sam Weyen (SW): Good question. So when I first got into Stanford, I wasn’t sure what I was going to fall into or start liking, but I knew I was interested in theater, and then I started watching some of the football games and basketball games and I saw the Tree, and I just loved the idea. So it was my screensaver for a long time. And then I came and I did Gaieties, and I met a former Tree, Calvin Studebaker ‘15, and he was playing a tree in the show, and I just got to learn all about the traditions and culture, and then on the last night, the last performance the Band comes in and plays at the end, it rallies, and it was just one of the best experiences at Stanford. I had this moment of just clarity — I grabbed a potted plant from backstage, and I danced with Will Funk ‘16 on stage, so that [was] kind of the moment I knew I had to join the band and I had to try out.

TSD: What was the first thing you had to do in the process of becoming the Tree?

SW: Well, the Tree is very different than any other thing you try out for on campus. You essentially create your own Tree Week. It’s a two-week period called Tree Week. And you do creative stunts that kind of showcase how crazy you are to an extent, how fun you can be, how much you are willing to do. So you get to do everything on your own. I knew that I wanted to do a theme, so all of my stunts ran together in a thread. So my theme was “Pubertree,” and I grew up progressive[ly] throughout the week. The first four or five days I wore nothing but a diaper in every class. And then, I became a toddler and wore Heelys and overalls. And then [I became] a douchey teenager. I wore a Fall Out Boy tank and I had friends tattoo me.

TSD: What was the culmination of your Pubertree journey?

SW: I’d say the big thing I did at the end is after I‘d gone through Pubertree I went to President Hennessy, and I filmed it, and he told me, “If you want to become mature, you want to reach maturi-tree, you’ve got to work forty hours at the Stanford Farm, one hour for every Tree we’ve ever had.” And so I did! I went to the O’Donohue farm over by FroSoCo, and I worked forty hours of service [in] the two, three weeks leading up to Tree Week. Mulch, shoveling, picking weeds, harvesting crops, mixing and pouring fertilizer. I woke up like 7:30 a.m. each morning to drag [myself] over there. Long, long arduous thing but a lot of fun in the end, and very healthy and well-being oriented. And then President Hennessy in the video tells me what to do next, and I had a metamorphosis. I planted myself in a big pot for 48 hours in White Plaza. So I was buried up to mid-shin in sand, and then I slept and ate and other things in this pot for two days straight.

TSD: How long was it between the end of that and when you were notified?

SW: I got out of the pot 5 p.m. on Saturday, which was such a great feeling. I got watered, and then I came out and then I had four hours to prepare one final stunt to impress the Trees at interview night, and then I went to bed. And at 3:30 to 4 a.m., the entire band was outside of my dorm and playing music and it was me [who was selected]. It was incredible.

TSD: What was your final stunt for interview night?

SW: So it was kind of haphazard; we had to do something at the last minute. So I ordained one of previous Trees as a minister from the Universal Life Church, which is not hard to do. And then I got an official marriage contract.

So I married Will Funk. I got a wedding dress from a friend. I had a banner, a wedding cake, wedding gifts for each person there. Wedding invitations, music, a large speaker, I did everything. And then I created a script for each person who was present, and they only had their lines but they jumped back and forth reading it and all was very insult-ery. And then Will Funk and I got married — I still have the papers, so I guess if I filed them we would be legally married, because I got them notarized, but at the moment they’re just sitting in my room.

TSD: What are you currently wearing?

Currently wearing — so there’s a new costume every year, and we have maybe eight or nine in reserve from previous years. So the one I’ve been wearing a lot is the lightest and probably one of the best-held-up trees.

TSD: Alright, is there anything else that you want to add?

SW: Oh man, so much. President Hennessy’s a great actor, my goodness, so impressed. He’s got a little bit of an accent but it was good and it worked out for me. I made a rap video. Let’s never speak of that again. Honestly, being Tree is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be.  


This interview has been condensed and edited.

Contact Skylar Cohen at skylarc ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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