|Penn State Blue Band|
|School||Pennsylvania State University|
|Location||State College, PA|
|Assistant Director||Dr. Carter Biggers, Dr. Eric Bush, Dr. Darrin Thornton|
|Fight song||"Fight On, State"|
|Uniform||(2008–present) One-piece pant/suspender combo, jacket with cloth PSU overlay sewn on, black shoes with white spats, white gloves, white hat with navy plumes.|
The Penn State University Marching Blue Band, known generally as the Blue Band, is the marching band of Pennsylvania State University. Founded in 1899, it is the largest recognized student organization at the University Park campus of Penn State, presently with over 300 active student members. The primary function of the Blue Band is in support of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, performing for all home football games at Beaver Stadium.
- 1 Instrumentation
- 2 History
- 3 Auditions
- 4 Rehearsal
- 5 Performances
- 6 Class
- 7 Organization
- 8 Gameday traditions
- 9 Facts & figures
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The current Blue Band numbers 323 members, including 274 instrumentalists, 32 Blue Band Silks (Colorguard), 15 Touch of Blue (majorettes), a drum major and a Blue Sapphire (featured baton twirler). Members come from virtually all curricula and colleges represented at the University Park campus of the Pennsylvania State University.
The 2015–2016 Penn State Marching Blue Band includes:
- Total Membership: 323 members
- 1 Drum Major (Jimmy Frisbie)
- 13 Piccolos
- 27 Clarinets
- 28 Saxophones
- 68 Trumpets
- 24 Mellophones
- 34 Trombones (including 4 Bass Trombones)
- 16 Baritones
- 28 Sousaphones
- 36 Percussion
- 32 Silks
- 15 Majorettes
- 1 Feature Twirler (Rachel Reiss)
The Blue Band traces its history to 1899 with the formation of a six-member drum and bugle corps initiated by student George H. Deike.
By 1913, the organization was known as the College Band, and the first permanent director of bands, Wilfred O. "Tommy" Thompson, was appointed in 1914.
In 1923 a few new blue uniforms were purchased towards replacement of the old brown military style uniforms in use. Blue uniforms were issued on the basis of ability and rank. Photos from 1924 (not shown here) show a nucleus of blue uniformed members in a block "S” formation surrounded by a large number of brown uniformed band members. This select group of instrumentalists became known as the "Blue Band" and represented Penn State as the official traveling band.
During succeeding eras in which Hummel (Hum) Fishburn (1939–1947), James W. Dunlop (1947–1975), Ned C. Deihl (1975–1996), Dr. O. Richard Bundy (1996-2015) served as directors, the name Penn State Blue Band was kept even though all members were uniformed in blue. Today, the director of the Marching Blue Band is Gregory Drane.
The Blue Band is open to all students at the University Park Campus by competitive audition. The Blue Band accepts 290–315 student members annually. Veteran members (returnees) must reaudition for the band the following year if they wish to return.
The audition process consists of two parts of a standard etude or solo played on the Tuesday (prospective rookies) or Wednesday (prospective returnees) before band camp. The student should pick a slow/lyrical section and a technical/virtuosic section that demonstrates his/her current playing level. The student must then sight read a piece selected by the staff member responsible for their respective section to demonstrate the student's ability to pick up pieces quickly, as there is limited time to prepare the band's repertoire during the season. Staff members score both prepared and sightread performances, which are then tallied and ranked to assist the staff and section leaders in making final cuts.
The day after the playing audition, rookies are taught the Blue Band style of marching, during which time other members of the Blue Band staff, as well as section leaders make decisions for final cuts which happen that evening.
Though the band consists of over 300 players, there are fewer positions in both the pregame and halftime performances. After all the available slots on the drill are filled, the remaining players (usually rookies) are assigned to double a spot on the field with another Blue Band member (usually another rookie). These "alternates" are required to learn all the music and drill just as a regular member. Within each alternate pair, each person is guaranteed one performance between the first two football games. Afterwards, the whole section competes for spots on the field by memorizing and "checking off" (playing a school song or chaser for a section leader (guide), without music) as many pieces as possible. If there is a tie or the entire section has all of their music checked off, there are challenges where a player may challenge any one person in the section for a position. A challenge consists of the playing of Lions '68 (Floating LIONS Music) while marching the "skill drill", which is a basic outline of what each player must do while floating the "LIONS" during pregame.
Membership in the Blue Band requires a large time commitment. The band practices weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and on Tuesday from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The band performs at all home football games and must arrive for an additional Saturday morning rehearsal five hours before the scheduled kickoff.
All practices take place at the O. Richard Bundy Blue Band Building (dedicated in October 2015), the home of the band as of Fall 2004, or on the practice field next to it. A few weeks into the football season, however, Intramural Sports occupy the field on Tuesdays, so the band rehearses on the turf fields next to Holuba Hall, just off of University Drive.
The Blue Band performs many times throughout the school year, not only during football season. In addition to home football games, the entire band travels to one away game per season, and there is also a small 15-person pep band that travels to the other away games. The band learns a new halftime show for every home game to add a variety of music to the band's repertoire, as well as adding variety to halftime performances.
Saturday performances start by marching over to the Bryce Jordan Center in parade formation to Parade Order. When the band reaches the Bryce Jordan Center, the band plays its Pregame and Halftime music at an event known as Tailgreat, a pre-game pep rally, including performances by the Penn State Cheerleaders and an appearance by the Nittany Lion. After Tailgreat, the band makes its way outside to line up in parade formation to march to the stadium. As is tradition, the band starts its march to Beaver Stadium by singing a rousing rendition of "The Nittany Lion". The band then proceeds to the stadium and prepares for the pregame performance.
When the band is not playing in on the field, it is located within the student section, just behind the South end zone. While in the stands, the band plays a variety of stands tunes and fight songs, including the official fight song of Penn State: "Fight On, State". After the game, the band has a post-game performance on the field, which consists of the traditional playing of "Lion Special", followed by select tunes from their half time performance. There is also a separate performance after the game on the northwest corner of the field known as the "Corner Concert," where the percussion section highlights their parts for halftime, Parade Order, and, more often than not, something entertaining they have come up with during the week.
The band also has many other performances during the year including Men's and Women's Basketball and Volleyball games, and other various sporting events, such as Cross Country meets. Outside of the Blue Band's obligations as a pep band, the band has its own concert, traditionally known as "Band-o-rama", during which the band will reprise the year's halftime music and fight songs.
Although the Blue Band itself is jointly administered by the College of Arts and Architecture and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics, student members are not paid nor given any scholarship money by the university for being a member of the band. All students who participate in the Blue Band are enrolled in a one credit class – MUSIC 081 – and must remain a student in good standing with the University in order to maintain their eligibility with the band.
Since July 2015, the Blue Band has been led by its sixth director, Gregory Drane. According to his staff profile at blueband.psu.edu, Drane has served as the Assistant Director [of the Blue Band] since 2005, directing Athletic Pep Bands as well as founding the Penn State Volleyball Band, and has been part of the Blue Band staff since 2002, when he was a graduate assistant. A talented saxophone player himself, Drane has designed and arranged some of the band's most memorable halftime performances, including "Moving Picture Show" and "Game of THONS." Drane holds a bachelor's degree in music education and music performance from Bethune-Cookman, a master's degree in music education from Penn State and is nearing completion on his Ph.D. from Penn State.
Working directly under Mr. Drane are three assistant directors, numerous graduate teaching assistants, and instructors. Each assistant director holds a full-time faculty appointment within the Penn State School of Music, while the graduate teaching assistants and instructors vary between paid and volunteer positions. While utilizing many custom musical arrangements, drill for the Blue Band is typically written by the director and assistant directors, and each section of the band is assigned a graduate assistant or instructor to assist with instruction.
The Assistant Directors of Athletic Bands at Penn State University are Carter Biggers, Eric W. Bush, and Darrin Thornton. According to their staff profiles on blueband.psu.edu:
Carter Biggers joined the faculty as a member of the athletic band and conducting faculties in fall 2013. Dr. Biggers came to Penn State from The University of Iowa, where he earned a D.M.A. in band conducting and completed his doctoral thesis: "On Iowa! A History of The University of Iowa Marching Band, 1881-2012."
Eric Bush joined the Penn State University faculty as Assistant Director of Athletic Bands in 2015. Dr. Bush also teaches undergraduate conducting, various music education courses, and directs PSU's Inner Dimensions jazz ensemble. Prior to his arrival at Penn State, he served as Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Iowa, where he earned the D.M.A. in band conducting degree. Dr. Bush's doctoral thesis, The History of the Big Ten Band Directors Association (1971-2015) was published in the spring of 2015.
Darrin Thornton is an assistant professor of music education in the School of Music. Beginning his Penn State career in 2002, he has also worked with the Blue Band since 2007. His current research focuses on pre-service teacher training, urban education, ensemble education settings, and adult music engagement.
The current graduate teaching assistant for the Blue Band is Jonathan Mountain (2015 season).
From 1996 to 2015, the Blue Band has was under the direction of O. Richard Bundy. Dr. Bundy received his undergraduate degree in music education from Penn State, then after receiving a master's degree from the University of Michigan, he returned to Penn State for his doctoral degree (serving as assistant director under Dr. Ned C. Deihl from 1983–1996). Prior to his appointment to the faculty, he served as trombonist with the United States Continental Army Band and as band director/instrumental music instructor in the Iroquois School District, Erie, Pennsylvania. In addition to conductor of the Blue Band, he teaches courses in conducting, marching band techniques, instrumental music education, and band literature.
Dr. Bundy has the distinction of being the first director of the Blue Band that had previously marched in the band as a member, graduate or undergraduate.
An active guest conductor and adjudicator, Bundy has conducted ensembles and presented clinics throughout the eastern United States and Canada. He is a member of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), Music Educators National Conference, Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, Phi Beta Mu, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He is a past president of the Eastern Division of CBDNA and Phi Beta Mu, Nu chapter.
On October 11, 2015, the Blue Band's practice facility was dedicated in Bundy's honor and renamed the O. Richard Bundy Blue Band Building.
The Blue Band is maintained in a large part by student officers who are elected by the band at the end of the season for the next season. Officers control uniform assignment, the band finances, the music library, equipment set up and transfer, as well as maintaining the band's website. Officers also organize intramural sports, ticket raffles, and getting vital information to the section through list serve.
The Penn State Blue Band has one drum major who is chosen in the spring prior to each band camp. The drum major leads the band through warm-ups and fundamentals as well as instructing the band during rehearsals. Along with duties in Band Camp and during Football season, the Drum Major also makes various appearances at The Student Bookstore or at other events to get the community a chance to see him/her. The Penn State Drum Major is perhaps best known for the pre-game flip that was created by Drum Major/gymnast Edwin L. Anderson for the 1942 season. Unfortunately, Anderson had to leave school for the Fall semester due to appendicitis, so the Flip didn't become a tradition until 1971. Currently, the Flip occurs twice under the current Blue Band pre-game drill. Blue Band Drum Majors have been 'flipping' for Penn State since 1971. In 1978 the flip evolved from a back flip to the current forward flip. The number of drum major flips in the Blue Band pre-game has varied from 1 to 3 (with the current number being 2).
The drum major for the 2015 season is Jimmy Frisbie.
The Blue Band's most experienced and most talented members in each section are the guides (section leaders). Guides help the section, especially rookies, to learn the Penn State way of doing anything from marching to playing to specifics about each section such as how to hold your instrument.
The Band is divided up into about 60 squads, each with a squad leader. During halftime preparation, the squad leader is responsible for obtaining a copy of the halftime drill and teaching the other members of the squad how to read it, as well as assigning positions in the squad and coaching the squad during practices. Squad leaders are usually guides but in the lack of enough, especially in larger sections, the most experienced member of a squad is the squad leader.
For 18 years, (1995-2013), five hours before the kickoff on Saturday, the band would meet for a short rehearsal and then would get into uniform and march to the Bryce Jordan Center where they headlined a concert/Pep Rally known as initially as Tailgreat, it became the Penn State Blue Band Tailgreat.
Tailgreat started 2 hours before kickoff. In the time leading up to the start, music would be playing, sometimes early games were shown on the video board, concessions were open. After a short opening that would often include promotions of other Athletic Department teams or endeavors, the Blue Band would march in and play through their traditional "Pregame" show music, and then perform the music from that week's halftime show. The band front units, The Blue Band Silks, the Touch of Blue, the Penn State Majorettes, and the Blue Sapphire/Feature Twirler would perform their routines while the band played. In between there would be some extra songs performed by the entire band, or sometimes just specific sections would perform fun little tunes. After the Blue Band's halftime show, the announcer would bring out the cheerleaders who would, along with the Blue Band, begin a short 10-minute pep rally. After the pep rally is done, the Blue Band would assemble up outside the Arena and march down Curtin Road to the stadium to get ready to go into the Stadium to perform.
Just a few weeks before the 2014 Football season began, the Blue Band was informed that Tailgreat was being replaced by a new activity, known as "Team Arrival" Instead of the team arriving to the Stadium by the famous Penn State Blue School Busses right in front the entrance to the locker room, the is now dropped off outside the baseball stadium, and led by a parade made up of 1/4 of the Blue Band, the cheerleaders, dance time and Nittany Lion, walk up Curtin Road and then turn into the Stadium amidst the fans who line up along the route. The decision remains unpopular to many fans who enjoyed seeing the Blue Band perform their halftime music and routines in a great sounding setting, while creating a very family-friendly environment for fans.
During the parade to the Bryce Jordan Center for Tailgreat, the parade from the center to Beaver Stadium, and the post game parade from the stadium back to the Blue Band Building, the band marches to the percussion cadence, Parade Order. Each section of the band has their own set of chants and carefully choreographed motions. At one point, the trombone section performs "suicides" where the players alternate the positions of their horn between straight up and to the side, trumpets all hold their horns in a line parallel to the ground and do a wave, and the sousaphones do the "tail" in which the back of the band sousas essentially serpentine around each other, giving the band the appearance that it has a lions tail. There are also full band motions such as during the beginning of the parade where the whole band jumps and high kicks with their right foot. The full band also performs cheers such as "WE ARE PENN STATE!", and "I wish I was in the land of roses" to symbolize any Big Ten band's wish to make it to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Parade Order is the feature of the drumline's post-game performance, known as "Corner" or "Drumline Corner," which used to occur in the northwest corner of the stadium, but in recent years is performed on the 50-yard line, after the Blue Band's post-game performance. Each year, Parade Order is usually modified by one of the members of the drumline, and each week during "Corner" the break features an extended sketch rehearsed by the entire line (previously, a "vocal" featuring a humorous phrase or pop culture reference appeared at this spot). Other features of this performance include calling out the bass line ("Here comes the bass!"), 10 push-ups by the cymbal line, the "White DJ" visual by the snare line and circles by the tenor line.
Parade Order is easily recognized due to its introduction, which features a lick that is similar to the beginning of the SCV cadence, "Electric Wheelchair."
The Blue Band performs their variation of the "Big Ten March style" during every gameday performance. In order to high-step march, Blue Band marchers must raise their thigh to be parallel with, extend their calf to be perpendicular to, and point the toe directly at the ground. This style, in contrast to typical drum-corps style marching, gives the band a very visual effect. Because the band performs this high-step, it enables them to perform certain moves that could not be done by low stepping. Penn State's signature pregame move – the 3/4 turn – orients the band to their right after performing a rapid 270-degree turn to the left (the University of Minnesota Marching Band does this too).
The band begins their pregame performance with "Lion Fanfare and Downfield". "Downfield" is when the Drum Major will perform the 2 trademark flips, one on the 50-yard line, and one on the South goal line. Next, the "Star Spangled Banner" is played, followed by the playing of the opponent's fight song. "NFOS" is then played, during which the band creates the "PSU" formation. From the PSU formation, the "PSU Alma Mater" is played, and the band performs one verse towards each side of the stadium. The Band finishes up their pregame performance with the Blue Band's "trademark drill," the Floating Lions. The band spells out the word "LIONS" across the field and reverses the drill halfway through, giving the word "LIONS" a full 180-degree rotation. Lastly, the band moves to the "Team Aisle" formation, from which the Penn State Nittany Lions football team will run out of the tunnel. There are no right turns in pregame.
Big Ten Salute
Every marching band that plays for a Big Ten Conference football team salutes the opposing team's fans during pregame with their fight song. The Penn State Blue Band inserts the opposing team's fight song into the middle of the pregame performance, and forms the first letter of the name of the opposing team's school while playing their song towards their fans. This happens immediately after the "Star Spangled Banner" (at a home game) or "Lion Fanfare and Downfield" (at an away game). In both cases, this is directly before "NFOS" and the PSU formation.
Facts & figures
The Penn State Marching Blue Band has appeared at 33 bowl games including multiple appearances in the Orange, Cotton, Sugar, Fiesta, Gator (now TaxSlayer), Rose and Citrus Bowls. The band has also performed at the Outback, Blockbuster, Holiday, Pinstripe, and Rose Bowls and for the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. In addition to marching in several Orange Bowl, Citrus Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl parades, the Blue Band marched in the Bicentennial Constitution Celebration Parade held in Philadelphia in 1987 and made its first appearance on January 2, 1995, in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.
The Blue Band made its film debut in the 1993 film Rudy. They played "Fight On, State" in the movie.
In 2005, the Penn State Blue Band was honored with the Sudler Trophy. The Trophy, which has been presented by the John Philip Sousa Foundation since 1982, is regarded as the nation's highest accolade for collegiate bands. Bundy joined previous Blue Band directors and representatives from the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture to accept the award at a halftime presentation during the 2005 homecoming game. In recognition of the honor, members of the Blue Band wore patches commemorating the achievement on their uniforms during the 2005 season.
- Penn State News http://news.psu.edu/photo/326777/2014/09/17/pipe-and-bugle-corps-penn-state-1890s. Retrieved 8 September 2015. Missing or empty
- Range, Thomas (1999). The Penn State Blue Band: A Century of Pride and Precision. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01960-3.
- "Course Description: MUSIC 081". Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin. The Pennsylvania State University. December 15, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-22.