Penn State

Longtime Penn State Blue Band director to pass baton

Gregory Drane has been named the new Penn State University Blue Band Director, taking over for Richard Bundy, who served since 1996.
Gregory Drane has been named the new Penn State University Blue Band Director, taking over for Richard Bundy, who served since 1996. CDT photo

Greg Drane will be picking up the baton from his mentor, following Richard Bundy as the sixth director of the Penn State Blue Band.

“Considering I’ve been working with Dr. Bundy for 13 years, it is a real honor to even be associated with him,” Drane said.

The university confirmed Drane’s appointment coming after an “extensive nationwide search.” As it turns out, they didn’t have to look far.

Drane, a Florida native, came to Penn State to do his graduate work after completing a bachelor’s degree at Bethune-Cookman University.

He became the athletic bands assistant director in 2005, and has spent 10 years working with the Blue Band, the fall athletic band and the Pride of the Lions pep band.

He designed the drills used for several halftime shows at Beaver Stadium and created the 2014 “Game of Thons” show.

He also joins a line of directors to be hired from within to lead the band. Bundy succeeded Ned Diehl as director in 1996 after serving as an assistant and marching with the band as an undergrad. Diehl was also on staff before he took the reins in 1975.

“When I think about the Blue Band, I think about a family,” President Patrick Burke said. “Anyone who is a part of the program feels that kind of camaraderie. Mr. Drane understands the traditions that make us such a storied program.”

Drane himself is aware of the scope of that responsibility.

“Dr. Bundy left some very big shoes to fill,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity. It’s bittersweet for me knowing my mentor is leaving the position, but I’m excited to step into it.”

Bundy is retiring at the end of the semester. His last appearance on the field with the band was at the Pinstripe Bowl in December. Drane will officially take over the office July 1.

“There were a number of outside candidates in consideration. Someone from within the program is generally more aware of good traditions that should be maintained and I think that becomes a factor when filling similar positions at universities with long-standing band programs and a large alumni fan base,” Bundy said.

Bundy was honored by the university Friday when the board of trustees named the marching band’s building for him.

“I can’t say enough great things about that man. Key for us in the future is to not forget those accomplishments,” Burke said. “He’s the kind of person who would never expect that type of recognition. It’s going to be great that the building will always be named after a man who has exhibited the best the program is about.”

The Blue Band has grown from six members of a drum and bugle corps in 1899 to 310 musicians and band front today. The band was awarded the Sudler Trophy by the John Philip Sousa Foundation in 2005.

Students were not a part of the search committee, but Burke said they were an active part of the selection, with the process including mock rehearsals and marching rehearsals involving musicians, question-and-answer sessions with the candidates and “lots of opportunities” to meet and interact with would-be directors.

“I definitely think Mr. Drane is the best man for the job,” Burke said. “I think about how much potential we have with him leading us.”