Jimmy Frisbie always knew he wanted to be a part of the Penn State Blue Band.
Now he is a major part: the drum major.
For two years, Frisbie, a sophomore studying immunology and infectious diseases in the College of Agriculture, has taken his place in his blue and white uniform, holding his trumpet, and marching in line.
But a few weeks ago, he got the chance to try out for a new role, taking the mantle from former drum major Christopher Siergiej.
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“Initially, my drive was just to be in the band,” Frisbie said. “Once I got here, I started talking to Chris and realized (being drum major) is just such a great experience.”
For some, it might be all about being the center of attention. The drum major, after all, is an all-eyes-on-me position, drawing in the crowd with flash and the all-important flip, the defining move that has been part of a Penn State show for more than 40 years.
Frisbie nailed his flip in the auditions, but it isn’t why he wants to hold the big baton (actually, it’s a mace).
“The Penn State drum major represents a leadership role,” he said. “A lot of people are all about the flip, but I’m much more excited about conducting 300 people and being a servant to the band.”
No one knows the importance of the position better than Richard Bundy, who is retiring as director after years of serving the band as a musician, assistant and the guy leading it all.
“It is important that the person in the drum major position demonstrate the best of what is expected of all band members. Whether it be marching style, musicianship, conduct, attitude, work ethic or energy, the drum major must be a model band member,” Bundy said.
“The drum major must be a constant, positive representative of the Blue Band and be able to inspire peers to strive for excellence.
“Jimmy Frisbie has the physical skill, musical talent, personality, and leadership qualities necessary for success in the position. He will be a great representative of Penn State and the Blue Band,” Bundy said.
That commitment is something others see, too.
“I think Jimmy definitely understands the band. He understands the responsibility and he’s the right person for it,” Blue Band President Patrick Burke said. “It’s about sacrifice, and he gets the larger picture.”
Probably because he grew up with it.
The university’s fight song is in his blood. What some students or alumni might see as a Penn State institution is a family tradition.
The Blue Band is where his parents met. It’s where his grandfather marched, too. They have come back to play as alumni at homecoming, putting four family members on the Beaver Stadium field at the same time.
So was his mother excited when she heard the news?
“Well, they were really proud,” Frisbie said. But he didn’t get to call them and tell them right away. He had to text them because they were at his brother’s band concert when he heard the news.
Frisbie will not be the only new face on the field, joining new director Gregory Drane. While most of the band won’t start working until band camp in August, he is looking ahead to a summer of concentrating on those show-stopping flips, macework and more.
Will he be looking forward to one show more than any others?
“Well, there’s Rutgers,” he said. That game is set for prime time, under the lights at Beaver Stadium.
But the performance Frisbie waits for will happen before every game, when he will conduct the band for warmups.
“We’re like a big family,” he said. “I’m lucky to be part of the sound of the university for the day.”