BY CURT HARLER
Instead of a Homecoming Parade, an early-morning pre-game practice at Holuba Hall, and a roaringly successful pre-game entrance, the Penn State Alumni Blue Band settled for a Virtual 2020 Homecoming via Zoom.
In keeping with his responsibilities in this Covid-dominated year, Dr. Greg Drane, director of athletic bands, spent his time with alums discussing 2020’s health and safety issues rather than conducting music.
“This year, I’m a safety officer rather than a band director,” he said, noting that he spends little time on the Tower with music and most of his time assuring health guidelines are followed – even to the point of making sure roommates stand six feet apart during practice.
As the Big Ten announced an abbreviated football game schedule, there was good news and bad news for the Blue Band.
On the upside, just before the canceled homecoming weekend, the whole Blue Band was able to go into Beaver Stadium and shoot some video. That footage will likely be screened during the season.
The bad news was that the Big Ten decided there would be no bands at any Big Ten games. Many musicians held out hope that the restriction would be lifted at least for one late-season home game. That would be some reward for their loyalty and stick-to-it attitude. That decision, however, will be made far from State College. “With the short season, that is unlikely,” Dr. Drane said. The Blue Band, however, will be ready if the opportunity comes. Dr. Drane thanked ABBA members for their words of encouragement and for helping advance the Blue Band legacy.
Alums did not get to march at halftime, either. In a normal year, they would have performed in front of a happy crowd of 107,000 knowing their Nittany Lions were about to trounce Iowa. Instead, attendees at the Virtual Homecoming traded stories and memories with past directors Ned C. Deihl and O. Richard Bundy.
The event was nice – but it was a lot like drinking an alcohol-free beer: purported to be the same thing…but it wasn’t.
One tradition was honored. Everyone joined in the Singing Lions and the Homecoming was concluded with the singing of the Alma Mater.
A few ABBA members from the earlier years agreed that the virtual meeting was a lot easier on their legs. And while nobody missed a single yard line, there was agreement and optimism among the 58 Virtual Homecoming attendees that Homecoming 2021 will include both the Blue Band and Alums on the field at Beaver Stadium.