By CURT HARLER
The Penn State Nittany Lions made their first appearance in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Blue Band rocked the city.
For current Blue Band members, the trip was different in many ways. “Performing in an indoor NFL stadium was a new and exciting experience that proved to be very different from performing in Beaver Stadium,” says Blue Band Vice President Cara Arnoldi. She is the Band’s president-elect.
The Blue Band’s performance pre-game that afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was every bit as classy as the car. Marching out for pre-game was – quite literally – breathtaking. “I was thinking what I always think: "Yay! Oh, my goodness! It’s pregame time!" and "Man, I'm going to be breathing heavily after this one!" Arnoldi recalls. Since Blue Band did not have time to stop for the National Anthem or the Alma Mater, pre-game was a fast-paced and exciting performance.
Blue Band President Evan Linkimer, Beaver, PA agrees about the focus. “While each pregame is unique in its own sense, from my perspective performing a pregame at the Peach Bowl or Rose Bowl is not very different from performing in Beaver Stadium,” he feels. “We’re all so focused on marching our spots and hitting every note and step just right to show that, whether home or away, the Blue Band puts on an excellent show.” Blue Band members agree that the atmosphere in Mercedes Benz Stadium was unreal. “Seeing the size of the stadium from the perspective of the field for the first time truly took my breath away and let me appreciate the opportunity of where I was,” says Linkimer. He is a fourth year mellophone player majoring in international politics.
The trip was the first ever to a Peach Bowl for the Nittany Lions. Although the Lions lost to the Ole Miss Rebels 38-25, the Blue Band went home winners.
It is not quite true that every thoroughfare in Atlanta has the word “peach” in somewhere. Still, Blue Band members were just about as ubiquitous, including a gig at the Aquarium and the pep rallies. Linkimer says the Peach Bowl brought excitement with a new city to explore and Bowl events to participate in.
“Performing within Mercedes Benz Stadium was a unique experience that not even the Rose Bowl can provide,” he says.
The audience engaged with the Blue Band’s halftime selections. The HipHop show had tunes that resonated with alumni and students. There was something for everyone in the stadium. “Even when performing our stand tunes, the ‘student section’ appeared to enjoy our selections,” Arnoldi says. A third-year baritone from Chalfont, PA, she has a dual major in communications and political science through the Schreyer Honors College.
“The crowd loved our halftime show,” Linkimer agrees. Traveling with its HipHop Show to the Peach Bowl allowed the Blue Band to showcase an excellent display of its musical abilities. “The crowd seemed shocked at the power and intensity of our music and the stadium allowed our sound to take over the audience,” he remembers.
One memorable part of the trip for Arnoldi was watching Blue Band Drum Major Carson Pedaci rock a dance battle with a band member from the Pride of the South who happened to be the Homecoming King from Ole Miss. “It's fun to be able to engage with the other team's band members, even from across the stadium,” she says.
“Whenever I perform in any setting, I am always grateful for the opportunity, thinking of my parents and sister watching,” Arnoldi says. Her parents played Sousaphone and trumpet in the Blue Band; her sister played mellophone, and a younger sibling will try out next year for Blue Band. Linkimer, too, is a second-generation Blue Band member.
The trip home was epic – the flight was disrupted due to problems with the passenger manifest followed by mechanical issues. Shades of the five-hour delay on the way back from last year’s Rose Bowl! This time, the Band had to spend an extra night in Atlanta and did not get home to Harrisburg until around 8pm on New Year's Day.