BY CURT HARLER
Call him “El Presidente,” just plain Brett, or maybe the Blue Band’s Tiger Woods. Brett Butler, current ABBA President, is as passionate about golf as he is about music. And he has found a great nexus for his two loves.
If you watched the Blue Band in the years 2005-2007, you certainly saw Brett march. As K-7, he was the tunnel lead for his junior, senior and extra fall term at Penn State.
“It’s scary but wonderful,” he says of being one of two lead trumpets out of the tunnel. “You are the first person out to the sea of white. It overwhelms you. And you go, knowing you have 300-plus friends behind you. It is very emotional. You will never experience anything like that anywhere else!”
He graduated from Penn State in December 2007 with a degree in industrial engineering. Having changed from nuclear engineering, he needed an extra term to graduate and so got an extra year in the Blue Band. He got his MBA through the Penn State World Campus in 2012-14.
As President of ABBA, Butler’s focus has been on alumni engagement and technology advancement. There, he points proudly to multiple successes.
“Engagement across the generations is so important,” he notes. Recent grads expect the latest in technology to stay connected with ABBA. Past generations want to be in the loop. Technology makes that happen.
Golf is another area where Butler sees an opportunity to keep alums connected and involved.
While acknowledging that the annual Homecoming parade and performance are the heart and soul of ABBA, he notes that the weekend happens in a whirlwind. “Homecoming moves so fast. There are snippets of connection here, snippets there. Most of us have too little time to interact with old friends and to meet new ones,” he says.
Golf, he hopes, is one answer to the challenge of helping ABBA members relate. Indeed, the annual golf tournament has proved a success, both financially and socially. The latter is key. “You move slower, interact, talk to people,” Brett notes. “It helps bond us continue to grow and to stay connected.”
Butler loves to golf and has a 7.5 handicap (that’s good – don’t bet against him!). Not only does he see golf as a way to strengthen Blue Band ties but it brings him closer to his father. In early June right after golf play reopened, Brett and his dad played both the Blue and the White courses on consecutive days. “They were in great shape,” he says.
He still hopes ABBA will pull off the annual Fore the Blue Band Golf Tournament. He talked to Penn State course officials and they, too, indicated they are hopeful – even if the format is a bit different than normal.
A graduate of West York High School, Brett Butler really didn’t think about college band until he was accepted at Penn State. His dad wanted him to attend the York Campus for a year or two so he could ease into the college experience. Both of Butler’s parents and his older sister are Penn State grads. His dad is a football season ticket holder. So Brett was well aware of the Blue Band spectacle.
At some point, Brett decided he wanted to continue with music as part of his college experience. “I’m still not sure if it was motivational or not, but Dad said if I practiced hard and made the Blue Band, I could stay at University Park,” he recalls. He made the band as a freshman. He loved it and got more deeply involved. As vice president during his senior year and then president in his final year with the Blue Band, he got his first exposure to ABBA as an ex-officio, non-voting student member of the Board. He was impressed with what he saw.
Brett was not elected to the ABBA Board the first time he ran but he tried again and was elected in 2010. After a short hiatus, he stood again for election, taking over as ABBA President for the current 2019-21 term.
In “real life,” Brett lives in Southern York County and works for a firm that builds heavy equipment for the U.S. Navy that goes into its submarines. “That’s about as specific as I can get living in the defense industry,” he says.
He also is involved with his old high school band as Assistant Marching Band Director. Brett started working with the Marching Band as a volunteer and accepted the part-time gig after a few seasons.
It keeps him aware of young musicians. As a result, another of Brett’s ABBA goals is to increase involvement with recent Blue Band graduates. “It is critical to reach those new graduating classes and to keep them involved, to hear their fresh ideas, to listen to their recent experiences as Blue Band members.”
No matter the graduation date, Brett says being on the ABBA Board is an amazing experience. “Be an active participant,” he tells new Board members. “Being part of a volunteer organization is more than resume-building, more than a title.”
As president, he acknowledges that every volunteer group has limitations. Still, he says, ABBA has made amazing strides through the years. He can think of no better place to give back to an organization that gives so much to its members.
“In ABBA, we are so fortunate to have people who want to do something and commit the time and effort to the Band,” he concludes.