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Talking Homecoming, Road Trips, and More Stadium Music with Drum Major Ian Kenney

(BSD photo)
(BSD photo)

We skipped a few weeks since the last sit-down with Blue Band drum major Ian Kenney, so in today's Q&A we're coming back around for a pseudo October-In-Review.

How was homecoming week different for the Blue Band, compared to a regular week of practice?

Quite honestly, not much is different except for the fact that we have the parade after rehearsal on Friday; we still rehearse the same amount. This week's halftime show was a true "one-week show" for the band, so the majority of our time was spent working on that.

The homecoming parade is an interesting adventure for the band. It tends to start out all exciting and fun. But by the time we reached Burrowes, our legs were shot, lips like jello, and sweating from the three or more layers we wore for the 2-hour march. Then there was the pep rally on the Old Main steps, which was cool in two ways--fun-cool, and cold-cool. Is homecoming something you really enjoy, somewhat enjoy, or don't enjoy?

It's a little bit of everything for me. Homecoming is a great opportunity to be "less militaristic" and fully enjoy Parade Order, and I enjoy it from that aspect. I get to march in front of the Trombones instead of being all the way in front, and they're a lot of fun to be around. What I don't enjoy is the sequence of Friday into Saturday. I typically prefer to get at least 9-10 hours of sleep on nights before games so I'm physically and mentally well-rested. I usually don't exert myself on Fridays at all. To have a multiple-mile parade, a late pep rally, a long walk home, and a 6:00am wake-up the next morning followed by the typical gameday sequence is quite exhausting. I looked at it this way - I know the majority of this year's Homecoming Executive Committee, so I was more or less appreciating their year-long preparations. My exertion for a few hours is nothing compared to how much work they put into planning and executing all of the events.

How involved are you with the Alumni Blue Band? Do they generally take care of themselves, or do you work with them to prepare for the festivities?

I unfortunately don't get to interact much with the alumni aside from greeting them on the sidelines or before/after the game. I did manage to make it over to the north end zone during the third quarter to conduct a song along with all of the former drum majors in attendance, which was a great experience.

What has been your favorite halftime show so far this season? Is there a runner-up?

That's tough. Each show is memorable to me for different reasons. I'd say the 9/11 tribute is a standout, just because of how much that meant to everyone at the stadium. I'll never forget the silence in the stadium as the band played Amazing Grace. I tear up every time I watch that video. I also enjoyed the Crooner show because of the inclusion of "My Way", a song that always strikes up fond memories of the late George N. Parks (founder of the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, former drum major of the Reading Buccaneers, and director of the University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band) who passed away last year while traveling with his band. Search "UMass My Way" on YouTube and you'll understand the impact. So, in summary, this year has been more emotional musically, on multiple fronts.

Have you or will you travel with the pep band to any of the away games this year? Have you ever gone in the past as an instrumentalist?

I'll be accompanying the pep band to Ohio State this year, and I'm considering grabbing some friends and road-tripping to Wisconsin if that ends up being the deciding game in our division, and then I'll try to connect with the pep band when I get up there if that's possible. Aside from that, I went to FedEx Field last year with the pep band, Michigan my sophomore year as a sousaphone player with the full band, and Purdue my freshman year as a sousaphone player with the full band.

Being in DC was a blast last year. We had a free night in the city and we were staying only one block from the Capitol Building so Matt Freeman (feature twirler) and I ended up walking to the Capitol around midnight. We saw the Washington Monument in the distance and it didn't look too far away... boy were we were wrong about that. Long story short, we ended up freezing our tails off and then had to call a cab at some odd hour of the morning to get us back to the hotel. Good times. That's the usual on these trips. Typically the travel day is the day before the game, so there's always a good deal of free time for the members to go off on their own and do whatever they please.

Circling back to the stadium music. It was noticeably better (as in, more Blue Band, more conservative with the PA music) for the Iowa game. I wasn't able to attend the Purdue/Homecoming game. How was it?

It was pretty close to what it was in the beginning of the season... I counted Zombie Nation being played at least five times during the game, possibly more. I personally think that needs to be reserved for once a game, if that. From my view on the ladder, I can see it's starting to lose its excitement value with the student section. I was joking with some people that we should hang some sort of card from the railings each time it's played, like backwards K's for strikeouts at a baseball game. But I digress. I'm at the point where I'm going to stand there, enjoy the game, react in a positive manner to the piped-in music, and relish the chances that we get to perform. There's no sense in getting worked up about playing time. Being at a Penn State football game should be fun, no matter what the environment is.

For those out there who might not realize, playing more modern/popular songs costs a pretty penny (sometimes topping $300 just for the rights) and time to arrange the tune for the Blue Band. Have there been any requests that you'd like to see the band play, but weren't able to acquire for this season? Any others that nearly made the cut that might come next season?

There have been a great deal of requests, many of which I'd love to do as well. Unfortunately what you said is correct, money is always an issue when it comes to making decisions about what music to purchase for the season. We actually introduced about 13 new songs into the band's music folders this year. It's also a matter of finding rehearsal time. Unfortunately this season hasn't been too time-friendly; there has almost always been something of a higher priority than stands music. As basketball band begins to get started and the volleyball band continues to play the new music, it will get phased in slowly to the Blue Band based on the success of the music with those groups. I have a few requests that I have made and I plan on trying to arrange some music myself in the off-season - but, in the end, copyright is almost always the main issue.

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