University Park, Pa. -- They've proven they can rock Beaver Stadium, but when the Penn State Blue Band opened designer Marc Jacobs' 2006 spring/summer fashion show earlier this month, they showed they can command the catwalk, too.
On Monday, Sept. 12, 99 Blue Band performers, accompanied by three staff members, traveled to New York after being contacted weeks earlier by a production company in charge of organizing Jacobs' show. Organizers had been searching for a college marching band within relatively close proximity to the event when they found the Blue Band's Web site.
Jacobs' spring/summer 2006 collection incorporates school uniform-inspired nostalgia and a palette of blue, silver and white, so the colors, energy and clean-lined uniforms the Blue Band brought to the show made them a perfect fit.
The group had one on-campus rehearsal on Sunday before traveling to Manhattan. After a going through a technical rehearsal on Monday afternoon, enjoying dinner courtesy of Jacobs and then doing a dress rehearsal, the Blue Band opened Jacobs' show.
With the driving force of the drum line impelling them forward, the Blue Band -- led by lead majorette PJ Maierhofer's intricate and acrobatic twirling -- danced down the catwalk, blue and white uniforms brilliant under the spotlights, before bursting into rock band Nirvana's 1991 hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
"The students put on a great show and represented themselves, the band and Penn State in exemplary fashion," said Richard Bundy, director of the Blue Band and professor of music. "The feedback from the professional production staff of the event was glowing. The producer told me she had not worked with a more professional group in her years of producing Marc Jacobs' events. I am very proud of the students and their efforts."
To say this was a unique opportunity for the Blue Band performers is an understatement, according to Bundy.
"There was extensive media coverage, a professional production company filming the event and the audience included high profile celebrities," said Bundy. "The rehearsals and performance for this were -- I'm sure -- once-in-a-lifetime experiences for these students, most of whom are not performance majors and may not have such opportunities in their futures."
The students agreed this was an exhilarating experience and one they greatly appreciated.
"It was truly an experience of a lifetime, " said Ashleigh Lang, a sophomore kinesiology major and clarinet player. "To have the opportunity to perform at such an event, with such a high-profile audience, was remarkable and unbelievable. I can honestly say that that was the best night of my life."
And the audience appeared to be as enthusiastic about the Blue Band.
"I could tell the audience was pleasantly surprised to see and hear us," said Lauren Hoffman, a senior music education major who plays piccolo for the Blue Band. "They started cheering as soon as they heard the drums and saw our twirler."
Still donning their uniforms, the students attended an invitation-only gathering for a short time before heading back to University Park. Even among "A-list" stars from the fashion, entertainment and sports realms, the Blue Band enjoyed their own "celebrity" status, as was evidenced by the number of attendees who wanted pictures with the band members, Bundy said.
Mingling with celebrities like Kirsten Dunst and Lindsay Lohan was "absolutely unreal," said Matt LeRoy, a sophomore computer science major.
"I never would have thought that playing the trumpet would give me the opportunity to play at one of the hottest events in New York."
Coverage of the Penn State performance was included in recent national publications such as The New York Times (Sept. 14) and USA TODAY (Sept. 14, including a photo). For a list of recent media coverage, see http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=Penn+State+Marc+Jacobs&btnG=Search+News
To view a video of the event, visit http://marcjacobs.com/ and click on the "Spring/Summer 2006 Video."