“There is a lot of pressure,” she said. “We have a different performance every week, and we have to learn it in the time we’re given. If you mess up, everyone can see it.”
While she enjoys performing in front of a crowd, she noted that there are also physical demands, as members wear wool uniforms while marching and carrying heavy instruments, like her 30-pound sousaphone.
“Blue Band is a sport, it really is,” she said.
Finding personal and professional growth
Not only do student-musicians have to keep up with the mental and physical demands of being members of the Blue Band, they have to balance their time practicing and performing with their academic studies. The band practices nearly 10 hours per week during football season and requires additional time commitments on game days and for other activities.
“One of the biggest things you need to do is plan ahead,” said Beam. “We know when we’ll have rehearsals and what the time commitment is. We need to be able to plan when we’ll do school work and be mindful of how we’ll spend that time.”
“It’s not so much about balancing, as music is a creative outlet for me,” added Snowiss. “When I need to take my mind off the stresses of school, I can creatively express myself through band.”
Snowiss has found a way, however, to blend this creative outlet with his interest in technology. Three years ago, he helped to start the band’s Innovation and Technology Committee (ITC), which develops technology-based solutions aimed at improving the overall efficiency of the band.
Since the committee formed, they have implemented tools to leverage technology in the band, such as digitally tracking musicians’ song memorization check offs — a required part of the Blue Band curriculum — and digitally taking attendance. The ITC also plans to incorporate iPads into practices to help band members learn pregame and halftime drills, and to introduce virtual reality and 3D printing in the near future.
“We’re applying the things we learn in class to help the Blue Band solve logistical problems,” he said.
Bringing the classroom to the marching field is something students know helps them to stand out.
“Blue Band is valuable not only for the social aspect but also for professional development,” added Penfield. “When you put Blue Band on a resume — especially a leadership position — it shows a recruiter or prospective employer that you’re a person outside of class. It helps to personify you.”
Lifelong connections deepened through music
Snowiss is committed to advancing the Blue Band’s innovation while maintaining the organization’s longstanding tradition, and for good reason: His father also played trumpet in the Blue Band during his own time at Penn State.
“I wanted to play the trumpet anyway,” Snowiss explained. “My brother played it, too, at UC Berkeley. It just trickled down. It was a no-brainer for me to pick it up.”