If you’re an AAMB alum or a die-hard fan who follows the “All-American” Marching Band back to the Hovde Hall after games, you’ve witnessed a bit of craziness called “Tuba Cadence.”
Once the band is safely across Stadium Street and onto campus, the drums take a break and the brass goes wild. Crazy dancing can and does break out. Ranks sometimes form a moving snake. You might also see students with their arms around each other doing a kick line and singing, “Oh, my God, my shoulders (back, legs, knees, whatever) hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever do this again….maybe one more time.”
It’s a tradition that got its start with John Halkyard, a 1960s tuba player who majored in engineering science. Verifying the fact that true intelligence can lie beneath the tuba facade of craziness, Halkyard obtained MS and PhD degrees in ocean engineering at MIT after his Purdue graduation in 1966.
As it’s turned out, creating “Tuba Cadence” (or “Bass Cadence”) was just the beginning of the interesting accomplishments for Halkyard. Following MIT, he served as director of research, developing ocean mining systems for manganese nodules in the Pacific. From there he moved onto consulting work for oil and mining industries, then to a hydrodynamics lab in California that did model testing of offshore platforms and ships - including America’s Cup yachts.
In the 1990s Halkyard was a partner in Deep Oil Technology, which developed a new form of floating platform for deep water oil drilling and production. “This was a successful effort which led to several corporate buyouts and a temporary move from San Diego to Houston where I now live,” says Halkyard who’s currently senior technical advisor for the French firmTechnip Offshore.
Echoing the expansion of his career, “Tuba Cadence” has also become much more elaborate than the creation Halkyard penned with inspiration from the tuba section of 1965. “Tuba cadence was just a lark to entertain during the football games. We played it while touring the stadium with a group of four of five tubas, and getting hit by toilet paper rolls,” he recalls.
Following graduation, “I was away from Purdue until 1982 when I returned for Alumni Band. I was floored when they played the cadence. It made me a little proud to be part of the great tradition of Purdue Bands,” Halkyard says.
At Purdue, he also played alto sax in symphonic and jazz band, and sax in “Dow Jones and the Industrials” Triangle Fraternity Band. A favorite memory from those years is a band trip to Fiesta de Azucar in Columbia. “Because I had some high school Spanish I had to act as interpreter for many of the guys seeking date with the Latinas,” he recalls.
Musically, Halkyard played in a jazz band at MIT and traveled with it to the Montreux Jazz Festival. He’s also been active in community bands in California. Even with that involvement, “I sort of forgot about my Purdue experience until I had children of college age. I’ve told my kids that those four years should be cherished. The opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities is unique to this period of life and are just as important as academic pursuits,” he says.
“I think band teaches the value of personal excellence as it leads to group achievement which is the key to success in most things. By this I mean that success is based on individual practice and achievement,” Halkyard says, and “when you participate in a group that shares these values the joy of success is multiplied.”