An Interview with Rachel Reiss, Penn State’s Newest Feature Twirler

An Interview with Rachel Reiss, Penn State’s Newest Feature Twirler

Many people know Matt Freeman, Penn State’s feature twirler for the past four football seasons, for his daring fire baton stunts, his positive impact on the Penn State community and his impression on twirlers throughout Pennsylvania. What many people may not know is how Penn State’s feature twirler is selected. With feature twirler auditions this past month, I thought it would be interesting to learn a little bit more about the selection process while also getting to know Penn State’s the newest feature twirler, Rachel Reiss.

Last month, the Penn State Blue Band announced that Rachel, a senior at Lancaster Country Day School, would be the newest feature twirler. She went through an extensive audition process, competing against seven other twirlers with the same dream as her, to have the opportunity to perform in Beaver Stadium alongside the Blue Band. I had the opportunity to ask Rachel about the audition process, her career so far as a twirler, and her future at PSU…

Nick: What was the audition process like?

Rachel: There were seven other girls who tried out for the position. It was an open invitation; the only requirement was that one must be admitted to Penn State. First, I performed a five minute pre-prepared routine. It was a closed audition so we could not watch each other. After everyone’s routine was complete we each came back into the gym for one minute of improv and an interview. We then had to wait about 30 minutes while the judges conferred and made a decision. Those last 30 minutes were the most intense/anxious for me.

Nick: What titles and awards do you hold so far in your twirling career?

rachel reiss penn stateRachel: I was a member of NBTA's Team USA in 2012. I won Miss Majorette of the North Atlantic 2013. This past year at AYOP I tied for first in Miss Majorette solo and Advanced 16+ World Open strut.

Nick: What are you most nervous for this coming year?

Rachel: I’m most nervous for the first home football game when I do a trick coming out of the tunnel during pregame.

Nick: Who has inspired you the most in life and in twirling?

Rachel: On the academic side of the process, my college guidance counselor has been extremely helpful. To prepare for the feature twirler audition my coach, Wendy Rhoads, has done so much for me; from combing through the information on the website, to double checking details, to giving me encouraging talks and uplifting texts leading up to the audition. She even came to the audition with me. I’ve been with her my whole twirling career and we have a system of how to communicate and prepare the morning of a big event, which usually works very well.

Nick: What was your initial reaction upon learning you were the next feature twirler?

Rachel: After Dr. Bundy announced that I was going to be the next feature twirler I think I froze. For a few seconds I didn’t know what to do with myself. Dr. Bundy and I shook hands and I hugged a few people. However, the news didn’t really hit me until my coach ran up to me with tears in her eyes and swung me around. That’s a moment I will always remember.

Nick: What is your history with PSU?

Rachel: I have been to PSU a few times for the Blue Sapphire Classic and I’ve also taken an official tour of the school. My mom works at Hershey Medical Center so I’ve always known about Penn State and have felt a connection to the University. Everyone is so welcoming (alumni, current students, the band administration, etc.). I already feel like a member of the Penn State family and I can’t wait to fully realize the strength of the community when I start band camp and classes this August.

Nick: Speaking of class, what are your plans for this fall?

Rachel: I’m planning on co-majoring in French and Francophone Studies and International Politics. I am enrolled in the College of the Liberal Arts and am planning on pursuing the Paterno Fellows program and taking honors courses. I will be rooming with one of my life long best friends.

Nick: Do you have any advice for other people hoping to be the feature twirler one day?

Rachel: Work hard every day at practice and stick with your goals.

Nick: If you could spend an entire day with one person of your choice, who would it be?

Rachel: Herb Brooks <1980 head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid, also known as the “Miracle on Ice.”> We would go to a professional hockey game and talk about athletic mentality and I would later write a book based on this conversation.

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