February 15, 2002
Posturing tuba players delight crowd with 'Tuba Hail'
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Mix a batch of fearless, flexible tuba players with a boisterous crowd supporting a nationally ranked women's basketball team and a nostalgic variation of "Hail Purdue," and what do you get? Instant tradition.
That's what the Gold and Black Sound women's basketball band found this season when they reintroduced "Tuba Hail" to Purdue games for the first time in more than a decade. Before every game the band's four tuba players conduct a personal game of "how low can you go" at center court in Mackey Arena. They posture, prance in a circle and bend over backwards in a theatrical attempt to hit a low A-flat with as much flair as possible.
Tubist Kristina Murray, a junior from Osceola, Ind., says she looks forward to the new tradition before each game.
"I love it when the crowd cheers after we hit the low note," Murray says. "And when we walk through the crowd on our way back to the band, we always get pats on the back and people saying 'Good job!'"
"Tuba Hail" is familiar to anyone who watched men's basketball games at Mackey, or on television, in the 1980s. It got its start in an opening segment for Indiana Farm Bureau-sponsored TV broadcasts depicting a middle-aged man rummaging through his attic, discovering a dusty tuba and pulling together enough breath to puff out a stanza of "Hail Purdue."
It catches him totally by surprise when a pep band, somewhere in the distance, softly echoes back the melody. He takes a deep breath and launches into another stanza of the song, swaggering around the attic in moves that mimic those of Purdue's pep bands.
The inspired poke at college tradition and nostalgia caught audiences' fancy and was used for many years. Purdue's marching band director at the time, Bill Moffit, adapted the TV bit for tuba section and band. It was used for many years, injected into halftime or time-outs at Purdue men's games. It was never used for women's basketball.
Bill Kisinger, men's basketball band director, says the tradition then came to a sudden halt.
"Someone decided it was old-fashioned and wouldn't allow us to play it at games," Kisinger says.
Still, the band department kept the tune in its repertoire, and marching band has occasionally pulled it out for pep rallies over the past decade. Ironically, it was an Indiana University graduate, Matthew Conaway, current director of Gold and Black Sound, who reinstated the tradition.
As the newest director of Purdue University Bands, Conaway looked at "Tuba Hail" on a play list and asked what it was. After he heard the story, he says he felt it was time for a revival.
"I figured retro is in," Conaway says. "I said, 'Let's give it a shot at a couple of women's games and see what happens.'"
The first time the tune was reinstated, the crowd gave it an instant thumbs up.
"Now we have people asking us if we're going to do 'Tuba Hail,'" Conaway says. "It's like asking us if we're going to do 'Hail Purdue.'"
In addition to Murray, the quartet of tubas taking center court include Jeff Hester, a freshman from Hudson, Ohio; Dave Eisert, a junior from Pittsboro, Ind.; and Jenny Campbell, a sophomore from Mishawaka, Ind.
Campbell says she enjoys the reaction from the crowd.
"To see how much the crowd enjoys it is really neat," she says. "One of the women who sits by Jeff rates our melt-downs and they tell him (each game) who wins. I don't know how they do it. There might be style points as well as distance."
The Purdue women have a record-setting 23-game winning streak at home, the third longest in the nation. And given that sports fans can be superstitious, "Tuba Hail" may be around a lot longer this time.
"It'll definitely be here for a while," Campbell predicts.
CONTACT: Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785, email@example.com.
A publication-quality photograph is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/. Photo ID: tuba.hail
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org