Game Day with the Blue Band: Part Two – Follow the Band Wagon
Upon entering Beaver Stadium through the tunnel, we finish our drum cadence and set ourselves up in the stands designated for the Blue Band. Then, it’s back into the tunnel to retrieve our pregame drums. As a bass drummer, there are different rituals we go through before either halftime or pregame. For pregame, we retrieve our blue pregame drums and march back out of the tunnel in single file. A hype circle is formed by the seven of us. We stretch, debrief, and then get ourselves pumped up. If you ever watch the entire ritual from the stands, I’m sure it looks rather silly. But actually being in the huddle with your “teammates,” screaming and cheering each other on, there isn’t anything in the world quite like it.
Pregame lasts all of about 10 minutes, give or take a few depending on if there is anything special going on that day, such as the Parade of Champions or if we are saluting the other team with their Alma Mater. Then, it’s back to put our drums away, and up into the stands for the rest of the first half.
The fight songs we play in the stands are pretty standard–Hey Baby, Seven Nation Army, and so on. We do try to mix things up, add a few new songs each week – some more popular songs like Poker Face by Lady Gaga or Look Down from the musical Les Miserables. The point is to please the student section and get them singing along with us and cheering as loud as they can for the team, and we aim to do just that with the stands tunes.
Halftime is something that changes each week for us. Sometimes we have as little as 7 days to prepare a new show. Sometimes we get lucky with a bye week in-between performances. This allows for us to be a little more relaxed and work on cleaning up the show. The shows consist of 3 songs normally, with the middle piece being in place, without drill. The shows almost always have a theme as well. Sometimes, depending on events in history or on popular trends, we may try to create a show that with music and drill, all works together.
The wind instruments in the band have the sheet music with them during the show, but the drumline, silks, and majorettes all have their shows completely memorized. Because of this, many times a week we have extra practices to prepare for this. Personally, the drumline puts in about 16 hours before game day. If you ever hear the drumline playing into the late hours of the night, you know they are only trying to put together the best show for their fans, not trying to annoy students while they study or relax in their rooms near the Blue Band building.
We then spend the rest of the game in the stands playing more stand tunes and cheering on the football team. Ever since Coach O’Brien became our head coach, the joint singing of the Alma Mater has become a tradition after the game ends, no matter the outcome. This coming together of the students, the athletes, the band and the rest of the community is something very special that I think should be carried on long after O’Brien retires.
From the stands, the band returns to the field to play through a few more songs from halftime or other shows for the few fans that stick around. After that, the real fun begins. The drumline takes center stage, playing the corner version of Parade Order (the cadence we march over to Beaver Stadium playing) complete with different visuals by the cymbals to entertain the audience. All eyes are on them as the rest of the band and directors take a seat in the grass, a nice time for them to relax and for us to show off how our hard work has been paying off.
Near the end of Parade Order, the music stops and the drumline takes their place for the corner skit of the week. Each week we put on a hilarious and entertaining skit to perform for the band. Some of the material is a bit on the inside-joke side, but we aim to entertain everyone who watches us. I can’t exactly disclose what happens during those skits, you will have to stay after the next home game to find out.
The drumline completes their skit, finishes the cadence, and the rest of the band picks up their weary bodies and we march one last time from Beaver Stadium to the Blue Band building. Once we arrive, a few announcements and congratulations are said by Dr. Bundy, our director, and it’s off to the locker rooms.
Hopefully I have made it clear that being a part of the Blue Band is more than just fun and games. First off, it’s practically a job in itself. We have a boss, plenty of supervisors, group projects with deadlines each week, lots of team building activities, and plenty of curveballs thrown at us.
And – oh yeah – we’re not paid, nor do we receive any sort of scholarship money. The only compensation we obtain for our good deeds is food, applause, and that warm feeling in your stomach when you know you did something right.
But really, our duty as a member of the Blue Band is vital to the university. When on campus, we act as role models of how to act at football games. We cheer constantly, never giving up on our team or our university, even in the darkest of times or in the toughest of environments. We were there when everything happened to Penn State a few years ago. We were there when Ohio State beat us a few weekends ago. And you can bet we are going to be there if anything else happens in the future.
We act professionally around other team’s fans or anyone who approaches us at any time or anywhere. Some people might go into a conversation with us thinking that we are terrible students, students who should be ashamed of their university and what their university has done in the past. But we can blow them away with our pride and respectfulness, making them forget all bad preconceived notions of what a Penn Stater is and how we act.
We don’t jump on the bandwagon, we are the bandwagon. We are the people that eyes look to in times of trouble. That’s because we have always been there, for our fans and for our students, never letting them down.
The Blue Band is a lot more than what people think we are. Sure, we play the Alma Mater and have a cool drum major who does a front flip. We like to have fun at times, taunting our opponents with fight songs and passing the lion as he crowd surfs over the students. But we are there when no one else is, practicing before the break of dawn, leading the team cheers when all hope has been lost. We may be small, but we are mighty, and we will never give up. Because no matter the score, no matter the situation we find ourselves in, the Blue Band always wins.
And when you stick with us, you’re going to be alright, we promise.