seal  Purdue News

August 29, 2003

John Philip Sousa to invigorate Purdue Band Day musicians

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – On Nov. 9, 1927, John Philip Sousa visited Purdue to make a special presentation to its band. On Sept. 6, Sousa's spirit will return to energize 2,000 Purdue Band Day musicians from 26 high school bands, which will perform a "Sousa Spectacular" at halftime of the Purdue-Bowling Green football game in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Ohio band director Marcus Neiman, who has become known for bringing Sousa to life, will don the high-collared director's suit for Purdue Band Day. He also will employ some of the March King's characteristic directing moves.

"Sousa had a style, a flair that just endeared him to his audiences," Neiman said. "He wanted his audience to walk away whistling a tune and enjoy what they heard, and he did it better than anyone else."

Throughout his long career, Sousa actively encouraged music education and performance throughout the Big Ten universities. His reason for coming to Purdue in 1927 was to present a sterling silver loving cup to director Paul Spotts Emrick in recognition of the excellence of Purdue's band program. The cup is still displayed in the band's Elliott Hall offices.

That connection, and the enduring popularity of Sousa's marches, encouraged David Leppla, director of the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band, to bring Neiman to conduct at Band Day and pass that love onto a new generation.

High school bands from throughout Indiana attend the annual event. Bands from the Lafayette area include those from Harrison, McCutcheon, Carroll, Clinton Prairie, Seeger, Delphi, Frankfort and North White high schools, along with Band Day's newest participant, the West Lafayette High School Marching "Red Devils."

In its first year, the 28-member West Lafayette band is "small by mighty," according to director Matt Conaway. Conaway said he always knew that when he got enough students interested to form a marching band one of their first outings would be to Purdue's Band Day.

"To maintain interest, you want to take them to many opportunities to do unique things – things they wouldn't be able to do in just a band class," Conaway said. "There's nothing like the sound of 2,000 people on the football field all playing the same thing. I want to see their eyes pop out of their head when they hear that first note."

For the Band Day Show, the massed bands will perform a "Sousa Spectacular" that includes the director’s most famous marches – "The Washington Post March," "King Cotton," "El Capitan," "Semper Fidelis" and "Stars and Stripes Forever." Because Sousa always mixed his music in with popular music of the day, the show also will include George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and an arrangement of "God Bless America" by Purdue alumnus Ed Montgomery.

Neiman said the show's closer is particularly appropriate because Sousa was a patriot.

"He considered himself the Pied Piper of patriotism," Neiman said. "The guy was a character."

Sousa's band toured the country extensively between 1892 and 1932 and not only is credited with championing works of American composers, but for bringing European works by Dvorak, Grieg and Wagner to little burgs, and doing it before orchestras took notice.

"He also took American music to Europe," Neiman said. "He hated jazz, but European audiences loved it, so he introduced Europe to jazz."

Many of his musicians went on to be band directors. One, a flute player named Meredith Willson, wrote the smash Broadway hit "The Music Man."

All Band Day participants work on the halftime show music prior to coming to Purdue. Then, in an early morning rehearsal on Sept. 6, Neiman works directly with the students to polish the tunes.

"If I could do just one thing it would be to encourage some of those kids who've never played Sousa marches to play another one," Neiman said.

Participants in Band Day 2003 include:

Austin HS Marching Band, Raymond Bruce, director.

Carroll HS Marching Band, Jessica Rankin, director.

Churubusco HS Marching Pride, Mark Cheshier, director.

Clinton Prairie HS "Pride of Prairie" Marching Band, James Bertucci, director.

Columbia City HS Marching Golden Eagles, Eric Criss, director.

Culver HS Marching Cavaliers, Anthony Jones, director.

Delphi HS Marching Band & Poms, Mark Fridenmaker, director.

Frankfort HS Marching Band, Dan Troyer, director.

Hobart HS "Pride of Hobart" Marching Band, Catherine Beiriger, director.

Knightstown HS "Knightstown Panthers" Marching Band, Chris Holland, director.

McCutcheon HS "Pride of McCutcheon" Band, Brian Shaw, director.

Michigan City HS Wolfpack Marching Band, Michael Morse and George Olson, directors.

New Prairie HS Marching Cougars, Mark Belsaas, director.

North Knox HS Marching Warriors, Debbie Vandermei, director.

North Vermillion HS Marching Falcon Band, Jeanne Hershberger, director.

North White HS Marching Band, Susan Ramey, director.

Peru HS Marching Tiger Band, Diane Haley, director.

Riverton Parke HS Marching Panther Band, Mike Hardesty, director.

Rushville Consolidated HS "Roarin' Regiment," T.R. Campbell, director.

Rochester HS Zebra Band, Barry Frisinger, director.

Seeger Memorial HS "Patriot Band," George Peterson, director.

Shelbyville HS Marching Band and Guard, Russell Smith, director.

South Vermillion HS Marching Wildcat Pride, Glenna Gibbs, director.

West Lafayette HS Marching "Red Devils," Matt Conaway, director.

Westview HS Marching Warriors, Mike Brown, director.

William Henry Harrison HS Militia Band, Steve Cotten, director.

CONTACT: Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Media interested in interviews should contact Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, at (765) 496-6785.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page