December 18, 2002
Purdue Band seniors consider bowl experiences 'priceless'
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The cost of 340 prime location tickets at the Sun Bowl: $11,900. The cost of 340 cans of soda to lubricate throats parched from playing instruments and yelling: $170. The cost of six bowl game experiences in a row: Priceless.
That's the way members of Purdue's "All-American" Marching Band view their second straight trip to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and Purdue's record-setting sixth straight bowl trip.
"I realize that being a part of this era is priceless," says Amber Bangel, a senior mellophone player from Lafayette, Ind. "Most band alums and band members at other schools feel lucky to have gone to a single bowl game, and I've gone to four. How can that experience be put into words? 'Thank you, coach (Joe) Tiller.'"
On Friday, Dec. 27, Bangel and fellow band members will begin filling their memory books with new experiences as they take off from the Purdue Airport for Texas. Although bowl travel has become a way of life for the band, the Class of 2003 has never been on a trip with the football team regular season or bowl play in which the Boilers have won.
That's something they hope to change with a second chance at both the Sun Bowl and the Washington Huskies. Not every band member is superstitious, but those who are take the 2002 Sun Bowl as a challenge.
"I'm looking into my possessions and finding out what I've brought to every single game so far, and trying not to bring it," says drum major Eric Brockman, a senior from Kokomo, Ind. Another Kokomo senior, trumpet rank leader Kevin Hart, stores his luck in his band hat.
"Back in high school, during my first band camp ever, I saved the plastic rings from the bottles of Gatorade I had. I still have them, and they've been taped inside my hat all season and are coming with me for another trip to El Paso."
For baritone section leader Kyle Upchurch, superstition rests in a hacky sack.
"I always take it with me on trips, or to exams. Something about it just calms me down knowing it's there," says the senior from Fairfield, Ohio.
Golden Girl Robyn Andrews, a senior from San Jose, Calif., thinks socks are the answer, while Golduster Christi Klein, a Goshen, Ind., senior, will take her Homecoming Queen crown for good luck.
Andrews says, "I've always worn the same socks to every game since my freshman year. They are thick knee socks with a black and gold Purdue train on them that I wear under my boots."
Klein says she will pack her crown carefully.
"This year I think I will bring my crown from being named Purdue Homecoming Queen, because at that game we beat Minnesota, so it must be good luck."
Bangel, however, may have the secret ingredient that will turn the tide in the Boilermakers' favor. Purdue's football team is undefeated at games where her 14-year-old brother Andrew has been in attendance.
"It's his fault we lost to Ohio State this year. He was supposed to be at the game, but bailed out at the last minute. He'll be at the bowl game whether he likes it or not this year, so hopefully his four-year record will stay perfect," she says.
If the Boilers are victorious, it will create a true win-win situation, because band members feel they win whenever they go on the road.
"The group dynamic of this band is such that we could be in the most miserable place on earth and still have a good time," says Noblesville, Ind., senior Kate Wiese, who serves as section leader for the piccolos.
Although rehearsals on the road are intense, there are plenty of moments to simply have fun. This year, free-time fun includes a Texas-size steak dinner followed by karaoke at the Indian Cliffs Ranch and Cattleman's Steakhouse; an afternoon trip to Juarez, Mexico; and a night at the Graham Central Station Dance Club, a facility that houses five different clubs, each playing different style of music.
It's during these outings that the band members will create some of their favorite memories.
"Funny stories and good times happen," says Kristina Murray, a senior tuba player from Osceola, Ind. "The stories are passed down from year to year to different members of the band."
Even something as seemingly mundane as an airport arrival becomes a special memory when the band is on the road.
"I have always liked when we arrive at the airport," says Rob Ballard, captain of the Big Bass Drum Crew and a senior from Indianapolis. "There is just something about getting off your own chartered plane and having buses waiting to whisk you away to someplace else. It makes you feel important, like a diplomat or rock star."
Despite the glamorous aspects of bowl travel, there's a job to be done and it's one that band members take very seriously.
"Being a band member, like being a student-athlete, comes with the responsibility of always being a positive representative of the university something I take to heart," Bangel says. "I love interacting with Purdue fans when we travel. I can meet a complete stranger and strike up a conversation about school, football, whatever. It's like being part of a bigger family."
On game day, Dec. 31, band members will strive to become difference makers.
"I feel I'm entering a place where we (the band) will make the difference in the game," Ballard says. "In these 'neutral' playing fields, we have to be the loudest, the most dedicated and the most loyal fans. We must be Boilers no matter what all day long."
The crowd seems more in tune with the band at a bowl game than anywhere else, says trumpet section leader Matt Wheeler, a senior from Berne, Ind.
"I feel the band is appreciated more at a bowl. It's not just another pregame or halftime show. The crowd has a special sense of pride for their band when another band is present. So when you take the field, the crowd seems to roar a little more than usual."
Pregame ceremonies with the Block "P" and "I Am An American" always provide one of the most emotional moments of Bowl travel.
"No matter how many times you take the field, it always gives you a rush of pride and sheer excitement. That's what keeps you coming back year after year," says clarinet player Amanda Treharne, a senior from Elkhart, Ind. "All the excitement from the crowd is shared with you, and it just feels so great to represent something others find so exciting."
"No matter where we are Ross-Ade, Florida, California, Texas when the band forms the Block 'P' and plays 'Hail Purdue,' the words can be heard so loud and clear by everyone in the stadium that it's almost overwhelming standing on the field and listening," Andrews says.
When time runs out on the Sun Bowl scoreboard clock, band seniors will walk away knowing they're winners no matter what the outcome.
"Band has been amazing," says Brett Musick, trombone section leader from Lafayette, Ind. "I have learned teamwork and leadership skills that none of my other classes could have ever taught me. I have learned volumes about how to manage people to put a 'finished' product together in front of the public. I will never forget all of the skills that I learned while I was here, and I will ultimately become a better person than if I had not been involved."
CONTACT: Kathy Matter, (765) 496-6785; email@example.com.
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Media interested in interviews should contact Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, at (765) 496-6785. The band's Sun Bowl itinerary is available on the Web.
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org