BLUE BAND: PICTURE PERFECT ACROSS THE DECADES

BY CURT HARLER

Blue Band history is brought to life in photos in the latest work written by Thomas E. Range and Lewis Lazarow. Titled simply PENN STATE BLUE BAND, it is the newest edition in the Images of America series and likely to be the closest to the hearts of ABBA members everywhere.

In fact, as an ABBA member your picture might well be in the book (if you squint really hard, you can see me in the background of a 70s-era photo that highlights the Sousaphone rank). ABBA members who participate in Pep Bands or Homecoming have a pretty good chance of spotting themselves in a couple of photos. The great assortment of band pictures dates from the 1890s-era Cadet Band right up to recent Blue Band practices where the uniform of the day is a Covid-19 mask.

There are sections devoted to buildings that housed the Blue Band (did you know directors once had offices in Carnegie?) and to key personnel ranging from Tommy Thompson and Hum Fishburn to Edna and Edith Murray (sisters who were in the Marching Blue Band well before the 1960s and 70s).

Impetus for producing the current book traces back to a visit Tom took to a bookstore in Philly where he looked through a display of Arcadia Publishing offerings. “On the shelves I found Images of America: The University of Pennsylvania Band book,” he recalls. “I took some pictures of it and sent them to Lew. We both agreed we could easily do something like that about the Blue Band.”

Tom and Lew did a great job with their project. PENN STATE BLUE BAND is a page-turner photographic history of the Blue Band. It draws largely on the Penn State Archives and the University Photographic Collection but also has photos from individual Blue Band members and the authors’ collections.

The book did not happen overnight. They started work last in August, targeting an April publication date. The hope was to have the book available for Blue-White Game weekend. ABBA participation at Blue-White evaporated, of course. “We then decided that to stir up interest and to also give back to the Blue Band, we would have a presale of the book and offer it to current band members and Blue Band Alumni,” Tom says. Copies bought through the presale are autographed.

About 25% of book sales made through the website will be donated to the Blue Band Legacy Fund. To get your signed copy, click on https://forms.gle/ZDkBPg87XsCsHi277. Payment can be processed via the secure PayPal app. There is a 6% tax on books in Pennsylvania.

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