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Leader of the Blue Band: Jack Frisbie says PSU drum major role is about much more than the flip

by on September 29, 2017 11:00 AM

Leading hundreds of musicians in the midst of thousands of fans is no easy task, but Penn State Blue Band drum major Jack Frisbie doesn’t worry about it too much.

“It’s important to recognize that you can’t do it yourself,” he says. “I have to rely on others to get organized, and it all comes down to execution.”

Blue Band leaders chose Frisbie as drum major last April. He’s been working on that role since then, while also getting the award-winning ensemble ready for one of the most promising Penn State football seasons in years. Most of his time has been spent behind the scenes.

“The public always sees the front flip and that’s only five percent of it,” he says.

The other 95 percent is split between training rookie band members to march and being a liaison.

“I’m kind of the bridge between (the band and administration),” he says. “The experience so far has been a lot of hard work.”

He’s not the first Frisbie to hold the responsibility of leading the Blue Band. His grandfather was band president, and his brother Jimmy was the drum major the two previous seasons. His parents met in the band.

“I feel excited to carry on that part of my family,” Jack Frisbie says.

Getting to represent the university on its biggest stage is an added bonus for him. Besides his family connections to the Blue Band, Frisbie’s love for music goes back to his early childhood. He picked up the piano at the age of 5 and found his passion.

“Music became a release and a form of expression for me,” Frisbie says.

He later picked up the trombone, which he played in the Blue Band, and is still as in love with music today as he was when he was 5.

Playing in the band last year when the Nittany Lions took on the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field helped steel his nerves, he thinks.

“There’s a lot of boos in a Pittsburgh atmosphere,” he says.

Despite that, he’s committed to keeping his head down and doing his job this season, even on the road at Ohio State — where the boos are guaranteed.

“Every day we come to practice and try to beat ourselves. Something our coach says is, ‘Today’s successes are tomorrow’s mediocrity.’”

Being in the spotlight and entertaining thousands of people is in Frisbie’s job description, but his favorite part happens before the season even begins. For him, band camp is where he’d rather spend his time.

“Leading band camp before students move in is really the most challenging and most rewarding part,” he says.

Seeing the band improve and the rookies get situated makes him happier than the cameras do on game day. Thanks to all of that practice, Frisbie says the band looks promising this year.

“I knew what I was getting into and what it would require. The band has already shaped so much of my time at Penn State that it felt natural to take on this role.” 

James Turchick is a senior journalism major at Penn State.


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