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Purdue Band Day floods field with pageantry and memories
Monday, September 14, 2009
From fun-loving tunes like the Village People’s “YMCA” to music from classic movies like “Star Trek” and “Ben Hur,” Purdue’s annual “All-American” High School Band Day on Saturday, Sept. 19, showcases music bands love to play and Americans love to hear.
Twenty-six bands from as close as West Lafayette High School, which is two blocks from Ross-Ade Stadium, to as far as Knightstown, Lake Station and Rochester will fill the field with color and pageantry at the Purdue vs. Northern Illinois game.
Current members of the Purdue Band clearly recall how exciting it was to march onto Ross-Ade’s field as a high school band member attending Band Day. Purdue Twirler Rachael Bazzell remembers being overwhelmed in a good way by everything she encountered as a high school freshman with the New Prairie High School Marching Cougars from New Carlisle, IN.
“Morning rehearsal was overwhelming. Just being on the field was overwhelming,” Bazzell says. “It was the highlight of the fall season for marching band. It was your chance to perform with a Big Ten band and some kids don’t get to do that.”
Clarinetist Kat Fuhs marched with West Lafayette’s Harrison High School Militia Band on the Ross-Ade field for four straight years at Band Day. “It was really exciting,” she says. “But Band Day wasn’t really about football.”
As young band students, she and her friends kept their eyes glued to the Purdue Band’s every move. “We liked to see them do their cheers. We liked their uniforms, their hats, their birds (plumes). We sat almost directly above the band so during cheers it was just a big sea of dancing white hats,” Fuhs says. “We were very impressed.”
By her senior year, some of her Harrison band friends had graduated and joined the Purdue Band, and she enjoyed spending Band Day lunch break with them at Slayter Center. Now a junior at Purdue, Fuhs thinks back to her high school days when Band Day rolls around. “I always wonder what they (high school musicians) think, if they are impressed as I was.”
Both Bazzell and Fuhs cemented a relationship with Purdue through Band Day that led to them being students on the West Lafayette campus. “After being on the field, I knew for sure that Purdue was where I wanted to go,” says Bazzell who’s in her junior year. This year both women will play host for their respective high school bands at Purdue Band Day.
“It was good when I was in high school but Band Day’s better now that I’m a part of the Purdue Band,” Bazzell says.
Part of the tradition of Purdue’s “All-American” Band Day has been to invite a veteran educator to serve as guest conductor. This year the honor goes to Ray Cramer, Director of Band Emeritus from Indiana University and a mentor for Purdue Band Director Jay Gephart.
In preparation for Band Day, the high school bands work independently on the music to be performed at halftime. Early Saturday morning, Sept. 19, all the bands meet at Purdue’s drill field for an intensive rehearsal with Cramer. At halftime, the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band warms up the crowd with a couple of quick tunes as the high school bands assemble on the sidelines.
When the high school bands enter the field, Ross-Ade will become a sea of musicians stretching from end zone to end zone for the massed bands’ performance of the Spanish tune “Espana Cani,” the Village People hit “YMCA,” and a closing medley from “Star Trek.”
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