By CURT HARLER
It is not true that Kathy Smith Bamat served as the Band Front Coordinator and Blue Band Silk Instructor since “forever.” However, she took the position in 1982…an amazing total of 38 years before retiring this year. During that time, she worked with several directors, including Ned C. Diehl, Dick Bundy, and Greg Drane. When she started, Dr. Bundy was a graduate assistant.
“I just love the memories and friendships of everyone from the staff to the instrumentalists, the silks and the majorette line,” Kathy says.
Before working with the Blue Band, she worked with many local high school bands, including Penn’s Valley and Bald Eagle. She did some work at Juniata Valley and Bellefonte camps. At the time she was hired, the Blue Band’s silk line was student-run. “They didn’t have anyone to do it professionally,” Kathy recalls. Dr. Diehl offered her the job. She initially refused because she was intimidated – and the students soon realized it.
“The kids, talent-wise, were way over my head,” Kathy says. As a result, there was some resistance on the students’ parts to her leadership. That changed quickly. Kathy marched with the Westshoremen Senior Drum and Bugle Corps for six summers, first getting involved in the Corps to gain the experience she could apply at Penn State.
Even as the decades passed, it wasn’t all sunshine. One Orange Bowl the buses got lost going to the parade. Half the instruments were on the flag bus and half of her marchers were on the other buses. She recalls Dr. Bundy running to collect the late buses and the whole Blue Band stepping off the bus and stepping off in parade formation immediately thereafter.
Another year –the height of the Urban Cowboy craze — saw her pleading with students to stay away from mechanical bull riding lest they get hurt before an event.
Or, the 2009 Rose Bowl when the feature twirler’s uniform split wide open as they marched the long, long parade route. “That’s why I always carry safety pins in my pocket,” Kathy chuckles.
Her fondest memory is seeing her grandchildren go through the Blue Band program. Granddaughter Karah Mothersbaugh was in the majorette line a couple of years ago and grandson Zackery is just graduating as a trumpet.
For now, retirement means travel, pool time at her Florida condo, Kindle books, crocheting, and leisurely bicycle rides. But in her mind, she always will anticipate those four whistle blasts that called her team to action so many times in the past.