Purdue marching band traditions return to the gridiron
Slayter Hill tradition gets new name and feel
Pumping new enthusiasm into an old event, the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band, with help from Purdue Athletics, presents “Thrill on the Hill” at Slayter Center before the Boilermakers’ home football games this fall.
Held 90 minutes before kickoff, the event is a concert and a pep rally all rolled into one, says Jay S. Gephart, the marching band’s new director.
For years the band has been holding a concert in the location, but Gephart’s wants to energize the format as the band enters its 120th year. “Expect it to be fast and upbeat, showcasing our auxiliaries more and our drumline,” Gephart says.
Purdue Pete and Rowdy will be at every concert and Purdue Athletics will provide guest celebrities from Purdue coaches to returning athletes with star status.
“Thrill on the Hill” will be presented at Slayter before every game except the Sept. 23 Homecoming contest when the band performs on Engineering Mall instead.
Fans attending football games this fall will be curious to see how the “All-American” Band’s new director puts his stamp on Slayter and other game-day performances. They might be surprised to find that Gephart, as he approaches his first season, is turning to the past with an eye on reviving forgotten traditions and giving them new life.
In Ross-Ade, “the traditional pre-game will feature the return of the Big 10 Flags and the ‘Hail Locomotive’ moving down the field,” he says. They take their place with the “Block P,” “I Am An American,” and the “Floating Purdue.”
Before the tradition disappeared several decades ago, the band incorporated large silk flags displaying the school colors of all the Big 10 universities into its pre-game show in the stadium. The band’s first director, Paul Spotts Emrick, created the tradition in the early 1900s and history books record that Purdue was the first university to carry all the colors of the Big 10.
“Pre-game is where we will really enforce the return of Purdue Band traditions,” says Gephart. Fans will also notice a return to the run-on entrance used by the band in the early 1990s with the auxiliaries entering from the north end zone and the band from the south end zone.
“The most important thing to me is to embrace what we all consider to be Purdue Band traditions,” Gephart adds. “That being said, when you look at halftime that’s where I will place my stamp.”
John Wasson is the band’s featured arranger and “music will be an eclectic mix from across the decades of modern music history from the big band era of the 1940s to film music of the new millennium,” Gephart says.
Show themes will range from “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a revival of the circus show the band presented at the 1967 Rose Bowl game, for the Sept. 2 Throwback Game, to movie themes from Pirates of the Caribbean, big band favorites from Duke Ellington, cartoon tunes from “The Incredibles” and “Cars” and heartland rock by musicians like John Cougar Mellencamp.
The picture of the Big Ten Flags, that appears with this story, was taken during a parade in Las Vegas in December 1966, one of several parades the band did at various stops on its train trip to the 1967 Rose Bowl.