High Steppers: Former area students are part of Blue Band
STATE COLLEGE — A whistle blast, followed by a drum cadence, call band members to attention at Penn State University. Proud to be in the Blue Band are locals Joshua Fry and Rilynn Temple, of Hughesville, and Amy Winder, of Montgomery. The trio just found out that they will be making the trip to Arizona for this year’s Fiesta Bowl where the Nittany Lions will play Washington on Saturday
For the Luminary each shared their experiences with auditions, favorite musical selections, memorable moments, places they’ve traveled and more.
Josh Fry, also of Hughesville, is a senior having four years playing sousaphone. He speaks of his travels with the band as “astounding.”
His first trip as a freshman was to the University of Michigan, and the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. Ensuing years took him to the Raven’s stadium in Maryland, the Taxslayer Bowl in Florida and a trip to New York to perform at half time of the Buffalo Bills game.
As did his fellow band members, Fry also spoke of the Rose Bowl and the Big Ten in Indianapolis. It was the latter he remembers most vividly. “Losing after the first half and coming back to win it, was extraordinary.” Of the 5.5-mile march at the Rose Bowl, he said, “I just enjoyed the atmosphere.”
Two of our interviewees shared words from director Greg Drane who said, “Look to the person on your left, now look to the person on your right, someone in this room is going to be your best friend for the rest of your life.” Fry added, “That is really the truth.”
Speaking of the band family, Fry said, “Every time a member opens the door to the band building, they are greeted with smiles and hellos from everyone. We have each other’s back.”
Fry realizes this to be an adventure of a lifetime. “When it comes to performing, there is no better feeling on earth than marching out of the tunnel in Beaver Stadium, under the lights, over 100,000 people cheering us on, marching our pre-game show. Every single time my stomach would be full of butterflies,” he said.
Currently, Fry is the band’s vice president. His duties entail planning all social events inside and outside the band, as well as communicating between members and directors. “I also look at my position as a motivator, getting students involved throughout the band, allowing them to enjoy the whole band and college experience,” Fry said.
Josh, the son of Woody and Ruth Fry, is working toward a middle school math degree with hopes of someday becoming a principal.
Mr. Geoff Harman, current Hughesville High School Band director said of his former students. “Rilynn helped me transition into the customs and traditions of the band when I took over as director. She was an excellent clarinet player.” Having Josh for only one year, Harman said, “He was leader of the low brass section and could always be counted on to keep band morale high.”
Amy Winder, a sophomore studying neuroscience and Spanish, plays the trumpet. “With 67, we are the largest section in the band, the total numbering somewhere around 340. Mr. Gregory Drane is our director, and we are incredibly lucky to have him; he changes lives,” Winder said.
Among her favorite music pieces are “The Fight Song,” “Lions 68” used during the Floating Lions portion of a drill, “Open Arms” by Journey, and her favorite, “Half-Time Son.” “Running a close second is “Pagliacci,” the opening song for the Opera Show,” Winder said.
The trumpeter sites her rookie year as incredible. “We beat Ohio State to become Big Ten champions, on to participating in the Rose Bowl parade. Watching students storm the field and seeing senior band members cry for joy when we realized we beat Wisconsin. These moments I’ll cherish the rest of my life,” Winder said.
Another special memory occurred last Christmas when the trumpet section members went caroling around campus and downtown during the first snow fall of the season.
A fun fact about Amy is that her twin sister Gabriella (Gabby), is at the University of Pittsburgh. So, when Pitt plays Penn State each year, the family is a house divided.
Winder said for her second year she’d planned to transfer to the University of Michigan, but finds it inconceivable now.
Amy, daughter of Rebecca and Todd Winder, had her start in music at Montgomery High School, Winder credits former director, Mr. Brian Rehn, when she said, “I owe everything I know about music to him. I will never be able to thank him enough for believing in me and making me the musician I have become.”
Clarinetist Rilynn Temple, who studied under former director Mr. Mark Boyer at Hughesville High School, said, “He made band my second family. Learning and practicing was fun which led me to become vice president during my junior year and president when a senior. Both years I was drum major and qualified for county, district and regional bands.”
“When arriving at Penn State, there were more than 20 clarinetists to fill three spots. Seven were taken, but I didn’t make it, so I joined the fall athletic band that plays for the talented women’s volleyball team. I enjoyed the experience,” Temple said.
The auditions are physically challenging during the heat and sun of August. “The first day is playing a prepared piece. The second day was from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with section guides encouraging us to push on and raise our knees higher,” Temple said.
The clarinetist made it on her second year. She was to show up at band camp the next morning. “I was nervous I wouldn’t survive after being sore all over my body with tired creaky tendons and blisters covering the entire bottom of my feet,” she said.
Having persevered, Temple named as her favorite, the 2016 American half-time show where they played “American Salute” and other patriotic songs while forming airplanes, parachutes, and a giant American flag across the field.
Her most memorable traveling destinations were the Rose Bowl at Pasadena and the Lucas Oil Stadium at Indianapolis, Indiana. Of the latter she said, “The Penn State fans went crazy when the confetti cannons went off, and the players danced on the field. The Penn State Band was by far the loudest fan section.”
Temple experienced her first plane flight going to the Rose Bowl. She thought she was able to do the five-mile parade after performing in the six-mile Little League World’s Series Parade at Williamsport six times during high school.
“I was wrong. I saw a man holding a sign saying ‘four more miles,’ then a little farther on, a woman’s sign said ‘he was kidding, only three more to go,’ “ Temple said.
Another surprise in California was the number of Penn State fans in attendance. “It took my breath away to see all the blue scattered throughout the stadium,” she said.
Other travels mentioned were to Heinz Field for a game against Pitt, the Ohio stadium against the Buckeyes, and a special performance given at New Era Field.
Rilynn is a junior studying communication sciences and speech disorders with plans working in either a school or hospital setting.