Purdue Mourns Loss of Legendary Band Director

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University’s second Director of Bands, former Director of the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band, and Director of Bands Emeritus, Dr. Al G. Wright, passed away on September 5th in his home in West Lafayette, Indiana.  Dr. Wright was 104 years old.

By 1954, Purdue University already had seven university presidents, but only one Director of Bands, Paul “Spotts” Emrick. When Dr. Al G. Wright took the position of Director of Bands in the summer of 1954, he brought a new level of showmanship to the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band and to all of Purdue’s concert bands and ensembles.

A six-year-old immigrant to the United States from London, England, Wright excelled as a musician throughout school with his primary instrument being the French horn. His high school band director was Dale Harris, founder of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA). Wright attended the University of Miami in Florida on a full scholarship. Upon graduation, Wright earned his master’s degree from the University of Miami while teaching music at Miami Senior High School, a program he led to national prominence. His Miami Senior High School Band performed at the prestigious Midwest Clinic in 1951.

Upon Emrick’s retirement at Purdue, composer Harold L. Walters, familiar with Wright’s high school band performances, recommended to Purdue Trustee J. Ralph Thompson that Wright would be perfect as the next Director of Bands at Purdue.  Wright accepted the position and never looked back.

In an interview with former Vice President and Treasurer, the late R. B. Stewart, Stewart commented, “Al was a showman. He knew how to use the band for the betterment of the university. The only way you could get anywhere was to use the band as a showpiece. He could do it. And he did do it. Al put life in the Purdue band program. He made it into real theater, a show, an attractive thing.”

During his time at Purdue, Wright is credited for adding auxiliaries to the marching band, including the positions of the Golden Girl, Girl-in-Black, and Silver Twins, as well as the Flag Corps and the Golduster Dance Team. It was Wright’s philosophy that a marching band should have “a lot going on during a performance” and that the band should “play to all sections of the audience throughout the stadium.” It was Wright who started the stirring patriotic tradition of “I Am An American” which is still performed by the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band during pre-game shows at Ross Ade Stadium.

For the Symphonic Band, Wright brought in well-known musicians as guest conductors including Arthur Fiedler from the Boston Pops Orchestra, Leroy Anderson, Edwin Franko Goldman, Ferde Grofe and Sir Vivian Dunn. When Paul Lavalle was guest conductor for the band, the concert was aired on Lavalle’s NBC radio show “Band of America.” The show brought national recognition not only to the band program, but to Purdue’s academic programs as well, especially when Purdue President Frederick L. Hovde was interviewed on the air.

In 1971, Wright also initiated the orchestra program at Purdue, serving as its conductor for several years.  He also started a Renaissance ensemble that performed for many campus functions.

During Wright’s tenure, Purdue ensembles made numerous international tours: two to Colombia; seven to Venezuela; a three-week tour of Japan; a two-week featured appearance at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Canada; and a three-week tour of Europe. Under Wright’s leadership, members of Purdue marching band also appeared in four separate productions at Radio City Music Hall for a total of 664 performances during their summer breaks.

In 1954 Wright was one of the founding members of the Florida chapter of the American School Band Directors Association (ASBDA), and in 1961 he founded the National Band Association (NBA), serving as its founding president, secretary-treasurer, and then (2000) honorary life president. He was also inducted into the NBA Band Directors Hall of Fame located at Troy University in Alabama, the Florida Bandmasters Hall of Fame and the University of Miami Band Hall of Fame.

His creative efforts helped the president of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) establish the MENC high school honor band, which appeared at several MENC conventions and at the Kennedy Center.  In 1978, Wright assisted former conductor of the United States Air Force Band, Colonel George Howard, in the development of the John Philip Sousa Society, which eventually became the John Phillip Sousa Foundation. With Wright’s leadership, the John Philip Sousa Foundation dedicated its work to the promotion of international understanding through the medium of band music. Professor Wright served as the Foundation’s President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board.

Al Wright also founded the United States Collegiate Wind Bands, which gave high school students the opportunity to travel, playing concerts in various locations in Europe, including performances in Belgium, Holland, France, Germany and Italy under some of the nation’s finest guest conductors.

Wright was president of numerous band organizations and served on many Boards of Directors including the Florida Bandmasters Association (1948-49); Florida Orchestra Association (1941-42, 1949-50); Florida Music Educators Association (1946); North American Band Conductors Coordinating Commission (1975-76); National Interscholastic Music Activities Commission (1958); Big Ten Band Directors National Association (1977). He held memberships in the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), the International Music Festivals, and was a member of the Jury for World Music Festivals in Kerkrade, Holland. Wright was elected to membership in the American Bandmasters Association (ABA) in 1949.  His primary sponsor was march composer, Henry Fillmore.  Wright served as ABA president in 1981 and as Honorary Life President until his death.

Numerous fraternal organizations honored Wright with honorary memberships: Kappa Kappa Psi, Phi Beta Mu, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He was elected to the Academy of Wind and Percussive Arts National Hall of Fame of Distinguished Conductors, and received the Star of the Order of Merit from the Sousa Foundation. Kappa Kappa Psi presented him with their Distinguished Service Medal, and in 1982, Purdue University awarded him the Distinguished Alumnus Award. In addition, he was the recipient of an honorary LLD degree from Troy State University in 1981. In 2016, both Al and Gladys Stone Wright were awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Midwest Clinic.  Dr. Wright also was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the international band fraternity, Phi Beta Mu.

Wright served as guest conductor, lecturer, and adjudicator in most of the 50 states, in five Canadian provinces, in Japan, Europe, and England. He is listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in the World. In 2003, Professor Wright was honored by Purdue University band alumni when a bust of his likeness was placed outside the Elliott Hall of Music next to the entrance to Purdue Bands.  The Purdue Bands & Orchestras department chair position is named for Al G. Wright.  His legacy will be remembered for generations to come in the Al G. Wright Rehearsal Hall within the new home for Purdue Bands & Orchestras – Hagle Hall.

Jay Gephart, current Director of Bands and Al G. Wright Chair of Purdue Bands & Orchestras said this of Al G. Wright upon his death – “His was a life well lived.  His legacy at Purdue is unparalleled and our University owes Al Wright a tremendous debt of gratitude for all he did to shape the future of Purdue Bands.  He and his wife Gladys together have done so much for the entire band profession.  His loss is felt not only in West Lafayette but throughout the world.  I will miss my friend Al G. Wright.”


Fall Sports Season Postponed – How it Impacts Purdue Bands & Orchestras Activities

On Tuesday, August 11, the Big Ten Conference announced the postponement of all fall sports for 2020. The announcement directly affects two Purdue Bands & Orchestras ensembles, including Boiler Box Band, which supports Purdue Women’s Volleyball, and the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band.  With the postponement of the volleyball season, the extracurricular Boiler Box Band will not meet this fall. The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band, which meets as a class at Purdue University, will continue to rehearse during the fall despite the postponement of all football games.

 

The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff remains the top priority for the department. Every ensemble in Purdue Bands & Orchestras will adhere to the guidelines of the Protect Purdue Pledge.  The marching band will rehearse exclusively outside and will meet in smaller platoons to meet safety and social distancing requirements throughout the semester. The “All-American” Marching Band will wear protective masks for the entirety of every rehearsal and performance. Wind players will receive uniquely designed masks, allowing students to play instruments while keeping their faces covered.  All brass instruments will be outfitted with bell covers as well.  All marching drill will be designed to meet social distance requirements.

 

The “All-American” Marching Band will livestream selected performances and make recordings throughout the fall semester, bringing the spirit of Purdue to the University, Purdue alumni and friends, and to our local community.

 

The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band was founded in 1886, one year before Purdue University had a football team. For more than 130 years, the band has served the Purdue community with its innovative performances, spreading the Boilermaker spirit across the globe. The fall semester will be so different without the excitement and passion of Purdue Football games. The Purdue “All-American” Marching Band will move forward though, seeking out safe opportunities to lift the spirits of the Purdue family during this challenging time.

 

As the situation changes, Purdue Bands & Orchestras will continue to make decisions in cooperation with Purdue University, and local and state governments.

 


Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The faculty and staff of Purdue Bands & Orchestras seek to create a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all students – today and always, but we recognize we have work to do. We must do all we can to address instances of discrimination, racial disparity and unfair practices and promote equity and inclusion. This begins with having honest conversations, exploring our implicit/explicit biases, and developing a plan of action and accountability. As we actively explore ways to increase outreach and confront systemic barriers that materialize due to racism and discrimination at Purdue University, we will continue to listen and learn. Purdue Bands & Orchestras stands against racism and hate. We stand with Black students, the Black community of Purdue and communities of color. And we are committed to change. On June 18th, our department began a serious dialogue on the stand we must take to combat racism within our corner of Purdue. Our faculty and staff will meet throughout the summer to create an action plan, which we will share publicly before the beginning of the 2020 academic year. Until then, we share your concerns and pledge to create an environment in Purdue Bands & Orchestras where our Black students are free from the pain of violence and racial injustice.


Incoming Purdue Freshman Hosts Concert with Park Avenue Pianos to Benefit Purdue Bands & Orchestras

Geoffrey Ladue, an 18-year-old graduate of Lafayette High School in Wildwood, MO and award-winning concert pianist and trombonist, will perform a livestream concert in partnership with Park Avenue Pianos Friday, June 5 at 9 p.m. EDT. All proceeds raised from the concert will be donated to Purdue Bands & Orchestras of Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

 

Ladue is the gold prize winner of the St. Louis Young Artist Piano Competition, a multi-time Alternate at the Music Teachers National Association’s piano competition, First Chair Trombonist of the Missouri All-State Orchestra, and is in his third year as a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. In addition to being an accomplished musician, Ladue is a recognized academic who holds membership in the National Honor Society and was named a National Merit Finalist as well as a Glory of Missouri Award recipient. He is majoring in Industrial Engineering and plans to pursue a Masters in Business Administration.

 

Eager to give back to the Purdue Bands & Orchestras Scholarship Fund, Ladue connected with Ronen Segev, owner of Park Avenue Pianos, a New York City Steinway piano reseller. Segev has hosted a variety of COVID-19 Musician Relief Concerts designed to help fund renowned pianists or the organization of their choice through the economic difficulties of the pandemic.

 

Ladue is incredibly excited to give back to the Purdue Bands & Orchestras Scholarship Fund through his virtual concert. As a 2020 Leath Scholarship recipient, he noted he found the generous and fervent support they provide to Purdue students “unparalleled.” Geoffrey would like to thank his family and friends who have supported him through all his endeavors. Geoffrey is especially grateful for his piano instructor, Alla Voskoboynikova, and his brass instructor, Ilya Litvin, who have fostered his musical maturity and success.

 

To tune in to Ladue’s concert live or donate, please visit https://steinwaygrand.com/pages/park-avenue-pianos-musician-relief-concerts-live-feed.

 

Purdue University – Purdue Bands & Orchestras:

Purdue Bands & Orchestras students are some of the most promising individuals on campus. Its 1,200+ students span almost every discipline aside from music, which is not offered as a major at Purdue University. With world-renowned performances by over 30 different ensembles, including the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band, Purdue Bands & Orchestras serves as the “Heartbeat of the University” and encourages a lifelong journey with music.


2020-21 Golduster Dance Team Selected

After an extremely competitive audition process, the 2020-21 Golduster Dance Team has been selected. The team welcomes eight new members this year. Elena Eberwine is a high school senior at Center Grove High School from Greenwood, Indiana, majoring in Brain and Behavioral Sciences. Anna Foster is a freshman at Purdue from Fort Wayne, Indiana, majoring in Kinesiology. Kendall Johnson is a high school senior at Castle High School from Newburgh, Indiana, majoring in Nutrition Science.Arisa Kulkarni is a high school senior at John Hersey High School from Arlington Heights, Illinois, majoring in Industrial Engineering. Kaitlyn Murphy is a freshman at Purdue from Rocky Hill, Connecticut, majoring in Engineering. Natsume Narasaki is a high school senior at Penn High School from Mishawaka, Indiana, majoring in Pre-Veterinary Medicine. Ashlyn Waddington is a high school senior at Harrison High School from Lafayette, Indiana, majoring in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. Amber Wentz is a high school senior at Legacy Preparatory Christian Academy from Conroe, Texas, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

Returning members include Malaya Atisso, Payton Fine, Brittany Gallarneau, Peyton James, Ally Kiger, Rylee Madden, Hannah Ortman, Brittany Rogers, Sophia Strain, and Julia Vogele. Congratulations to all of the members of the 2020-21 Golduster Dance Team!



Purdue Bands & Orchestras COVID-19 Update – March 11, 2020

In light of the recent global outbreak of COVID-19, Purdue University announced (on March 10), it will move completely to online learning starting on March 23 and potentially continuing through the end of the spring 2020 semester. In addition, all university-sponsored travel (domestic and international) and events involving any external visitors or over 50 people are suspended effective March 16 – May 2.

Purdue Bands & Orchestras is working closely with University officials regarding online learning plans for our student ensembles for the remainder of the semester. As of today, all remaining spring semester concerts and events have been cancelled. We will post updates on our website as soon as new information is confirmed. For more information on Purdue’s response to COVID-19, please visit https://bit.ly/2Izx3aS.


New Twirlers Selected for 2020-2021 Purdue “All-American” Marching Band

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Amanda Coy of Saline, Michigan, has been named the 31 st Purdue Golden Girl,
continuing a tradition started by Director of Bands Emeritus, Dr. Al G. Wright in 1954. On Saturday,
February 29, her audition earned her one of the most iconic positions on Purdue’s campus. Coy is a
sophomore in the Purdue Honors College studying Health Sciences Pre-Professional with a
concentration in Pre-Medicine and held the position of Girl-in-Black for the last two seasons.

Incoming freshman, Haley Aiken of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, will make her debut as the Girl-in-Black.
Aiken has been twirling for 13 years and will graduate from Penn Trafford High School this spring. Aiken
will be studying Biochemistry.

We will welcome back Alicia Dennie from Culver, Indiana, in the position of Miss Boilerette. Dennie is a
current junior studying Pre-Dentistry. Miss Boilerette was originally part of the Purdue Twirling program
during the 2009-2010 season.

Sophomore, Alexis Piskulic of Arnold, Missouri, and junior, Brooke Wyatt of LaFontaine, Indiana, return
as the Silver Twins. Wyatt, who is studying Hospitality and Tourism Management, along with Piskulic,
who is studying Political Science and Sociology, are returning for their third year together to the position
of Silver Twins for the 2020-2021 season.

In addition, ten students were offered spots on the All-American Twirling Team to round out the Purdue
Twirling program. They include returning twirlers, junior Marin Parker, sophomores Ashley Brazeau and
Leah DePasquale, current freshmen Caroline Hawkins and Iman Mevaa, and incoming freshmen Zoë
Dotts-Brown, Katie Harris, Alexa Lytle, Lily See, and Aria Summers.

All twirlers and band members are required to audition for positions annually, and candidates must be
admitted to Purdue University in order to qualify for auditions. We are thrilled to welcome our new
team to Purdue this fall. They will make their debut performance on Saturday, August 22, when the 135th
edition of the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band takes the field for their End-Of-Camp Performance.
To read more about the history of the Purdue Twirling program, visit
www.purdue.edu/bands/ensembles/auxiliaries.


Purdue Jazz & Orchestra Spring Break Greece Trip Suspended

Purdue University announced on Thursday, March 5 that it is suspending all university-sponsored student travel to international locations over the upcoming spring break period. This includes the Purdue Jazz & Orchestra trip to Greece. You can read more about this decision and the reasoning behind it HERE.

Purdue Bands & Orchestras is working directly with the travel company on reimbursement protocol for the students affected by this suspension. Further information will be communicated directly to these students as soon as it is available.

The university has seen no positive cases of COVID-19 and will continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and federal recommendations. Current information on the University’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.


$10 million gift sets the stage for new Bands and Orchestras building

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Drum roll, please: The new home of the Purdue Bands & Orchestras will be named Marc and Sharon Hagle Hall in honor of a $10 million leadership gift from the Marc and Sharon Hagle Charitable Foundation.

Approved by the Purdue Board of Trustees in December, the $20 million, 37,500-square-foot, four-story facility will be built at the southeast corner of Third and Russell streets. It will be along Third Street’s Student Success Corridor, which connects student residential areas with the campus’s academic center.

With an additional $10 million fundraising campaign from private donors now underway, construction on Hagle Hall is expected to start in September and finish by December 2021. Purdue Bands & Orchestras anticipates having occupancy as early as March 2022.

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Marc and Sharon Hagle, with 2019 Hagle Scholars and Jay Gephart, Purdue’s Al G. Wright Chair and Director of Bands. Download image

Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced the Hagles’ gift on Saturday (Feb. 15) at the President’s Council Naples (Florida) Annual Dinner. He presented the couple, residents of Winter Park, Florida, with the Purdue crystal train — a Boilermaker Special replica — in recognition of their gift.

“Announcing the new Marc and Sharon Hagle Hall — and the leadership gift that makes it possible — is music to the ears of the more than 15,000 Bands & Orchestras alumni around the world, just as it is to all of us who have had our spirits raised and our hearts touched by the remarkable student performers in Purdue Bands & Orchestras over the years,” Daniels said. “Thanks to Marc and Sharon’s exceptional generosity in launching this project, we will have a teaching and learning showcase for this world-class program.”

Hagle Hall will provide dedicated space for the 133-year-old Bands & Orchestras program, which has operated in Elliott Hall since that facility’s completion in 1940.

The alumnus champion of the project, Marc Hagle graduated from Purdue with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1971 and a master’s in business and industrial administration in 1972. As a student, he performed in the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band drum line, including during Purdue’s 14-13 victory at the 1967 Rose Bowl, and participated in the symphonic band.

Marc is president and CEO of Tricor International, and he serves as president and managing director of Virgin Fest, a licensee of the Virgin brand to operate music festivals throughout North America and the Caribbean.

Sharon, an alumna of Morris Harvey College, has been a real estate entrepreneur since 1983 and is active in the couple’s charitable and philanthropic work. She is the founder of SpacekidsGlobal, an organization that seeks to inspire one million elementary school students about space travel and STEM education, with a focus on empowering young girls.

In 2015, the Hagles contributed to the Roy and Sarah Johnson Purdue Bands & Orchestras Endowment Scholarship Program to honor Roy Johnson’s 60 years of service to Purdue’s instrumental music programs and his role as the “Voice” of the “All-American” Marching Band.

On a visit to Purdue several years ago, Marc reconnected with Roy Johnson, and on a more recent trip, he toured Elliott Hall, stopping by the antiquated rooms 15 and 30 rehearsal areas — visits that prompted the Hagles’ interest in supporting a facility commensurate with the Bands & Orchestras’ high caliber and international acclaim.

“The department has outgrown its space two times over, and when we were presented with the proposal to help, we bought into it instantly,” Marc said. “Everybody who participates in Bands & Orchestras has an opportunity that will affect them for the rest of their lives, as it did mine. It is a terrific character-building experience, and the dedication you put into it pays you back in personal reward many times over.”

“We are excited about the opportunity to make a difference,” Sharon added.

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Marc and Sharon Hagle (third and fourth from right), with Purdue trustee Vanessa Castagna, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, and students from Purdue Bands & Orchestras. (Photo/New Frame Photography) Download image

Marc credits Jay Gephart, the Al G. Wright Chair, director of bands and professor of music, for elevating the national and international reputation of the “All-American” Marching Band since being appointed its director in 2006. In 2010, the band became the first from the Big Ten to lead the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. During his tenure, Gephart has led the band in numerous international performances, including concerts in China, Ireland and Colombia.

“There has been talk about a new facility since I came to Purdue in 1995,” Gephart said. “It took Marc and Sharon’s personal involvement, generosity and drive to put our dream on the fast track. This building is the game changer we’ve needed to take our ‘Giant Leap’ forward as a program. That’s how important Marc and Sharon’s lead gift is. This facility will transform the way our students learn and how this department operates.”

Since fall 2013, the university — which has no music school — has seen a 65% growth in participation in Bands & Orchestras and now counts more than 1,120 students in more than 30 ensembles, concert bands and jazz bands, as well as the marching band. These students, more than 70% of whom are in STEM disciplines, boast an average GPA of 3.28, which is higher than the Purdue average. A YouTube video is available here.

Gephart noted that the new building’s location will bring greater visibility to the program as part of the academic environment. Students and passersby will be able to see rehearsals from Third Street, which will become a pedestrian thoroughfare by the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year.

Other features of the building:

  • A glass showcase for the “All-American” Marching Band’s iconic “World’s Largest Drum,” which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2021. The display will make the drum easily photographable for family and student photos and social media posts.
  • Accessible and environmentally controlled rehearsal space, including individual, small and large practice rooms with state-of-the-art acoustics.
  • An elevator that lifts heavy equipment to and from the loading zone. “Now we have to haul drums, instruments and equipment up a flight of stairs to the truck when we’re preparing to travel,” Gephart said.
  • Two new rehearsal rooms that will double as classrooms when not in use by musical ensembles.

Adjacent to the marching band’s Hull Field rehearsal space, an expansion to the Turf Recreation Exercise Center, or TREC, will provide restrooms, changing facilities, instrument and uniform storage and, in case of inclement weather, indoor practice space.

“We are excited about the future and for what this new facility will mean for all of our students,” Gephart said. “What we have done and will do, as alumni and friends working together, will be remarkable.”

To make a gift to Hagle Hall, visit giving.purdue.edu/bandsor contact Bob Shriner, rtshriner@prf.org, 765-494-0246.


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