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Big Ten mandates pregame ‘National Anthem’ change
September 5, 2010
When the entire crowd shouts ‘I Am An American’ at Purdue home football games, which they have done for decades, important voices have always been missing. Boilermaker coaches and players have always been in the locker room when “The National Anthem” and “I Am An American” are performed by the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band.
But all that changes Saturday, Sept. 5. Due to a Big Ten mandate, the conference’s 11 universities are all changing their pre-game band shows to make “The National Anthem” immediately precede kickoff. The goal: Including coaches and players in this emotional and patriotic moment.
In all other sports, athletes are standing at attention when the National Anthem is played prior to the start of the contest. Most universities, including Purdue, have leaned towards the use explosive videos on the jumbotron to lead up to the football team’s entrance and kickoff instead of “The National Anthem.”
Purdue’s marching band staff responded to the change enthusiastically. Previously “The National Anthem” was buried in the middle of the band’s pregame show and surrounded by rah-rah songs. Making everything lead up to “The National Anthem” appeals to Max Jones, Assistant Marching Band Director. “The anthem and ‘I Am An American’ are very emotional moments and more fans will be in the stands. I like what we are able to do with it,” he says.
Tradition governs much of game day routine and long-time fans expect certain things to happen in the Band’s pregame show such as the iconic Boilermaker Locomotive, the Floating Purdue and, of course, the 102-year-old “Block P” formation.
“All those elements will be in the show but the order has been completely changed and we’re making it even more exciting,” Jones says. Instead of making its run-on from the south end zone, the band will enter from all four sides of the field and go into the “Purdue Fanfare.” As it plays “Varsity” the band adds a new element, spelling out B-O-I-L-E-R U-P ! one letter at a time. “It will be cool to get the crowd involved and shouting each letter as we spell it,” Jones says.
Next up the band will perform the Visiting Team’s fight song before a string of traditional formations - Boilermaker Locomotive and the Floating Purdue, ending with “Hail Purdue” and the “Block P,” the oldest formation in American marching band history.
Building on the spirit, the Jumbotron “Fire Up” video” unfolds and the teams enter the field. After the players run across Ross-Ade’s turf the band moves from the “Block P” to its traditional shield formation for “I Am An American” and “The National Anthem.”
Sept. 5 will be the first time members of the Boilermaker football team have ever heard “I Am An American,” the dramatic reading that accompanies the anthem. Written and introduced by former band director Al G. Wright in 1966, the reading was designed to arouse patriotism in Ross-Ade Stadium during the troubled Vietnam War years. Purdue fans loved it so much that they mounted letter writing campaigns on two separate occasions when it was in danger of being dropped from the show.
Around the time of the first Gulf War, audiences started chiming in on the last phrase “I Am An American,” adding to the emotion of this tradition. After 9/11 the Purdue Band received numerous requests to share this poignant reading which it was happy to do. Because of these requests, this unique Purdue Band tradition has literally gone around the world.
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