August 23, 2002
Purdue 'All-American' Band plans 'American Treasures' season
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. "American Treasures," ranging from astronaut Jerry Ross to movie music icon John Williams, along with Purdue traditions like "I Am An American," come together in a special season of football pregame and halftime shows planned by Purdue's "All-American" Marching Band.
If it all sounds kind of patriotic, it is. But this band, and its director David A. Leppla, aren't leery of being accused of jumping on a bandwagon. Since 1935, when a comment by CBS football commentator Ted Husing caused the name of the Purdue band to be changed to "All-American," Purdue has been leading the patriotic bandwagon.
"You really can't talk about the 'All-American' Marching Band without some sense of how they've been involved in national patriotism," Leppla says. "The band's very roots are in ROTC, and during both world wars we had so many members serving it was difficult to keep the program going."
Many Purdue band traditions have patriotic roots.
"I Am An American," the patriotic reading that's been a pregame tradition since 1966, was created during the Vietnam War years, and shaped later by Desert Storm.
"Our whole flag ceremony is unique," Leppla says. The spectacle of the giant American and Indiana flags on the field with the band in a shield formation, complete with huge stars, speaks to a patriotic pageantry.
Prior to the 2002 season, the Big Ten sought to standardize pregame activities throughout the conference, which would have altered Purdue's flag ceremony.
"Athletic director Morgan Burke fought it. That's the kind of impact our ceremony has," Leppla says.
Focusing on American and patriotic themes for halftime shows "is nothing new for us. It's not something we're pulling out of thin air as a reaction to 9/11. It's been part of this band since the outset," Leppla says. At the same time, "when you talk about patriotism in America you've got to look at more than waving the flag."
As a result, treasured personalities from America's entertainment world inspire the 2002 halftime shows. Music by rock icon Michael Jackson fills the Aug. 31 home opener, and the show will be repeated when the band travels to Notre Dame. Besides the fact that tunes like "Thriller" and "Bad" are part of the American experience, "Michael Jackson is just a great American success story. Here's this little kid from Gary, Ind., who puts together a singing group with his brothers and goes on to fame," Leppla says.
An "American Graffiti" show, set for Sept. 21, not only draws on images and music from the popular film, but addresses the nostalgia Americans feel for the 1950s.
The music of John Williams, whose composing talents have underscored dozens of films Americans treasure from E.T. to Star Wars will be featured at Homecoming haftime on Sept. 28. Astronaut Jerry Ross, who took "I Am An American" into outer space in April, will return to Ross-Ade Stadium that day to deliver the patriotic reading during pregame festivities.
Looking at America's favorite dance musicals, the image of Gene Kelly in "Singing in the Rain" emerges immediately and lies at the heart of the "Gotta Dance" halftime show on Oct. 19.
Entertainment Americans label "classic" from popular TV show themes to Elvis Presley to John Phillip Sousa fills the Nov. 9 show. The final game of the season on Nov. 23 is devoted to music by Chase, a 1970s trumpet band whose bright career suffered a tragic and early end due to a plane crash. Coming to the forefront in a tumultuous musical era, "they weren't the protest music, but they portrayed the energy and excitement of the times," Leppla says.
The Band Day program on Sept. 14 also will serve as a commemoration of 9/11. A military flyover will heighten the mood during the pregame flag raising ceremony. At halftime, with nearly 2,000 musicians on the field, the massed bands will present Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" and Grand Funk rock anthem "We're an American Band." The halftime show concludes with "America the Beautiful" in an arrangement by Carmen Dragon, director of the Hollywood Bowl.
Looking at the whole season, Leppla says he feels it's an appropriate statement for a band that has literally worn its patriotism on its sleeve for decades. A red, white and blue shield with the words "All American Band" has decorated both shoulders of the band uniform since 1965.
CONTACT: Kathy Matter, (765) 496-6785; firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Media interested in interviews should contact Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations, (765) 496-6785.
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com