|Home||Ensembles||Faculty and Staff||Media||Merchandise||Contact Us|
40th anniversary of first bandsman on the moon
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Records show that Armstrong only played in the band one year, his sophomore year at Purdue. At that time, participation in the band was controlled by the R.O.T.C. and it boasted about 100 members, a far cry from the 400 today.
Gerald Fivel, president of the Indianapolis Meat Company, played baritone with Armstrong in the band that year.
“I hate to say this but we sat right next to each other, and I don’t know if we were even aware of each other. All I can remember is that he was a nice quiet guy,” says Fivel, a 1955 graduate in science.
“Neil wasn’t talking into the stars or anything like that. He was just an ordinary young man having good time in the band. He had no idea what was going to happen to him; nobody did. He was just a straight, square-shooting kind of kid.”
Despite his short involvement with the band, it most certainly occupied a soft spot in his heart. Ten years after his graduation in 1955, he was named an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi, a national band honorary fraternity. The Kappa Kappa Psi pin the astronaut took with him on his 1969 flight to the moon is permanently on display in the band department in Elliott Hall of Music.
In 1997, the band department chose Armstrong to receive its Alumni Achievement Award. Even though they hoped he would pick it up in person, band director David Leppla didn’t hold out much hope of that happening because of the astronaut’s hectic schedule.
But Armstrong surprised him by stopping by an Alumni Band rehearsal on a visit to Purdue during Homecoming festivities that year.
“He reminisced about Spotts Emrick and what a disciplinarian he was, and how tough his rehearsals were. Then he did an impression of Spotts that had the old-timers, who played under Spotts, doubled over. They said he was right on the money,” Leppla recalls.
“I’m not sure he said it in so many words, but Neil implied his experiences in band meant a lot to him,” Leppla adds. When the band initiated a major fundraising campaign that same year, Armstrong was one of the first to contribute, offering the bands a gift of $10,000.
Picture Notes: Photo on front page of website shows Drum Major Don Jones presenting Neil with a band blazer during a concert by the University Symphony Band in photo dating to late 1960s-early 1970s. At Homecoming 1997, Neil posed with Dr. David Leppla when he received the Band’s Alumni Achievement Award. The final picture shows Neil hitting the Big Bass Drum during an Astronaut reunion held at a 1999 football game.
Copyright © 2013, Purdue University, all rights reserved.