There are two themes emerging during the 2011 Penn State football season: The Team Sucks, and The Blue Band is Being Smothered. The latter has gained more steam the past two weeks, particularly after an Alabama home game that left many fans wondering why Penn State doesn't just disband the Blue Band all together if it's not allowed to be the dominant source of music in Beaver Stadium. The Blue Band topic was addressed by branding czar Guido D'Elia in front of about 100 students. Some of his answers were totally understandable, but then he laid this doozie on the crowd: "
“On Saturday, there was 7 minutes of Blue Band time for every minute of music. If you don’t believe me, feel free to come to my office to see the data.”
Of course, we all know that's complete bull; unless he's counting pregame, halftime and postgame in the Blue Band's column, while simultaneously omitting the obnoxious video board commercials and promotions that typically run right up until the offensive snap. This also led to myself and a few other of my fellow Blue Band alums to challenge those following on Twitter to bring stop watches to the stadium the rest of the year. Clock and chart both the Blue Band (in the stands only, since that's where the fans are referring to) and the amount of time Penn State spends playing recorded music, commercials, or non-game-related promotions on the video boards.
But what led me to get on this rant once again this week was addressed in a question below, which you'll find the answer quite interesting. It seemed, as mentioned by a few folks I follow on Twitter, that the Blue Band actually got to play much, much more during a Penn State away game, than it does during a Penn State home game. It kind of sums up the entire problem Penn State faces with its stadium atmosphere. A problem it's willfully ignoring despite loud disapproval from the fan base.
So on with this week's sit-down with Ian Kenney, the Penn State drum major. It was an interesting two weeks since we last did one of these. Hope you enjoy.
BSD: Since we missed last week (pretty sure everyone needed a break), describe the atmosphere during the Alabama game, particularly from the band's perspective. Also, what happened during Team Aisle?
Ian: Alabama was incredible. It was great to have an electric atmosphere back in the stadium... probably the best atmosphere I've seen since the PSU/Illinois game in 2008. I still say it's a shame it wasn't a night game - I think the outcome of the game could have been different. Beaver Stadium isn't the same stadium once the sun goes down (much like OSU certainly wasn't the same stadium once the sun went down last season). What most people don't know is there was a significant contingent of the band that consisted of rookies marching their very first pregame... I can't imagine what it would be like to take my first steps onto the field in that environment. It made me thankful for having the experience of last season behind me, it helped me keep my composure and go out there with confidence. As for Team Aisle... I didn't notice anything too out of the ordinary from where I was standing from the band's perspective. I did notice that the timing of the team coming out of the tunnel with the cheerleaders seemed to be a little off.
BSD: The Blue Band took its first road trip of the season down to Philly. Was it a full-band trip, or just part? It was tough to see on TV.
Ian: The entire band took a 36 hour trip which consisted of three performances: one Friday night at Central York High School, halftime Saturday at the PSU/Temple game, and another performance Saturday night at Upper Dublin High School. The other performances were a good recruiting opportunity for the band. We were packed pretty tight into the stands in the corner of the stadium, plus ESPN is notorious for neglecting bands in their TV coverage, so that's why we were tough to see.
BSD: Was that really the band's road trip for the season, or will there be the usual Big Ten road trip? Obvious follow up, what game?
Ian: That is the band's full trip the year. The office tried to make arrangements for Indiana and Northwestern, but each university had some sort of event going on that would cut back on the band's performance time (e.g. homecoming, "parade of champions", senior day, etc.). That left Temple as the only option. We were going to do a "down-and-back" anyway, even if we had a Big Ten trip, but they decided to expand that into a recruiting trip to try to boost some of our numbers for upcoming auditions. If the team goes to the Big Ten Championship, count on the band being there for that.
BSD: Some very funny, yet in a way sad, jokes were made on Twitter during the Temple game. Many were to the effect of "The Blue Band is playing more at the Linc than at Beaver Stadium." Did the band play more during the game than it had during the previous two home games? Thoughts on that?
Ian: The band undoubtedly played more at the Linc than the first two home games. I can agree on that. Greg Drane did all of the conducting at the Temple game (mostly because I was sick), and he has a far better grasp than I do on when the band can play without interfering with play on the field, so all of those factors contributed to it. There has been a ton of talk about the band's playing time in Beaver Stadium, and I'd be interested to see what might change in the next few weeks. It's out of my hands though.
BSD: You'd mentioned last week that you got a big run down with dehydration and cramping, causing you some trouble on the pregame flip. What happened, and how are you doing this week?
Ian: The weekend trip was really tough on me. I was sick going into the trip with separate ailments that came on all at once. I was on pretty tough medication which obviously takes its toll on the body. Factor that with having to perform pregame three times in 24 hours, plus being in uniform and the hydration challenge that goes with that, plus traveling/not sleeping well, and it all came back to get me. For the first time ever in this position I felt completely uncomfortable and not ready to perform as I stepped off. But, in my head I know that it doesn't matter how I feel. The audience doesn't know that and they expect my best day's performance on my worst day. I gave the first flip everything I had, nailed it, and right after my right calf locked up and cramped. I tried to compensate by running faster, but I just had nothing left by the time I reached the end zone, so I said my prayers and flung myself forward and flopped. Nothing I could do. Lots of talk exploded about an ankle injury (and subsequently did my cell phone)... my right cleat simply came untied at some point, so I had to roll up my leather spat to tie it before I went on. I ended up spending the third quarter from overheating/exhaustion at the EMS station. I did the best I could given the circumstances - I just thank the defense for bailing me out. If we lost that game, I never would have heard the end of it. I'm still trying to recuperate, but I'm hoping by Saturday I'm well enough to do what I need to do.