Breaking with tradition, Golden Girl auditions move to spring
On Aug. 16 Purdue University Bands selected its Golden Girl for the last time through a fall audition process.
The 48-year custom of auditioning solo twirlers in the fall will be replaced with spring auditions in 2003 to enhance Purdue’s ability to attract the nation’s top twirlers to the West Lafayette campus. Alisha Bane Kuckartz, a former Golden Girl who serves as advisor for the twirlers and the other Purdue “All-American” Marching Band auxiliary units, says the move will bolster the twirlers’ tradition of excellence.
“It was time for a change,” says Kuckartz.
The move to spring auditions aligns Purdue with other major university band programs which use early auditions as a tool to attract top twirling talent from across the nation, Kuckartz says.
A diminished pool of high school twirlers in Indiana and the Midwest, also prompted the move. Kuckartz points to an “explosion” of athletic opportunities for women in the 1990s have resulted in fewer women becoming twirlers, she says. Changing trends in high school band performances, with bands moving away from performances involving twirlers and towards corps-type shows, also have contributed to the decline.
At the same time, Kuckartz says women taking up twirling are increasingly competitive, participating more heavily in regional and national competitions held by various twirling associations. These twirlers are attracted to universities holding spring auditions where they can compete for solo positions and scholarships before committing to the university, Kuckartz says.
“Football players wouldn’t come to a college without knowing they were going to play, and the same is true for twirlers,” she says. “Girls who come from a competitive background are just like other athletes. They don’t want to try out a week before school starts. College twirling is quite important to them.”
June Ciampa Lauer, Golden Girl in the early 1960s, set up a scholarship to help Purdue reward its twirlers. She applauds the move.
“This change is long overdue,” she says. “I’m thrilled. I think it will do a lot to improve tryouts.”
The move to spring auditions will not only affect the Golden Girl position but the Silver Twins and the Girl-in-Black as well. Auditions for the Twirling Line will continue to be held during Purdue’s band camp in August.
Kuckartz says the change to spring auditions will not only benefit the solo twirlers but also the football crowds in terms of sharper performances.
“It gives the four chosen a chance to prepare over the summer. It’s hard to prepare a costume, unique choreography, and to understand what all of these positions entail, in only a couple of weeks,” she says. “This gives them time to really work hard to make the positions all they can be.”
Purdue Bands plans to hold a Golden Girl Reunion during the 2004 football season to honor the tradition created by Bands Director Emeritus Al G. Wright when he recruited Juanita Carpenter to be the band’s first featured twirler in 1954. That year fans called Purdue’s star quarterback, Lenny Dawson, the “Golden Boy” and quickly dubbed Carpenter the “Golden Girl.” When Dawson graduated, Purdue was left without a “Golden Boy,” but the “Golden Girl” title evolved into a movable crown that’s been passed down through several generations.
The popularity of the Golden Girl prompted Wright to add more and more twirling positions to the band, and the university became known as the “Cradle of Twirlers” in the 1950s and 60s. The Silver Twins were added to the line-up of solo twirlers in 1960 and the Girl in Black in 1962.
Twenty-two women have held the Band’s legendary Golden Girl title, the most recent being Wisconsin’s Erin Ansfield in 2001-02.