After 35 years working with the Blue Band, legendary Director Dr. O. Richard Bundy will take the Beaver Stadium field for the last time tomorrow to complete his final season at the helm.
Bundy began his time here as a student and Blue Band trombonist, graduating with a degree in music education in 1970. After some time away from Happy Valley as a member of the United States Continental Army Band and a band director and music teacher for the Iriquois School District in Erie, Bundy returned to join the Penn State faculty in 1980 as the Blue Band’s graduate assistant.
He held this position for three years before being named acting assistant director. In 1987, Bundy earned his Ph.D. from Penn State and was officially named assistant director. Finally, in 1996, Bundy was named the director of the Blue Band, the position he’s held until this year.
Beyond directing the Blue Band, Bundy is active in the Penn State community as a Professor of Music Education and the conductor of the Concert Band. He will officially retire in May 2015.
The Blue Band has seen huge advancements and achievements under Bundy’s tenure, including the creation of athletic pep bands and the Blue Band Building, built in 2005. That same year, the band won the prestigious Sudler Trophy, which recognizes “collegiate marching bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life.” The new tradition of singing the alma mater after football games also began under Bundy in 2012.
Coach Franklin invited Dr. Bundy to sing the alma mater with the team on the field after the Homecoming game against Northwestern. Photo: Annemarie Mountz
When Bundy looks back on the past 35 years, he remains humble. “I’ve just tried to do my best to build the band’s reputation as a first class musical experience and an organization that students would aspire to be part of,” he says. “If there is a legacy, that’s for others to determine.”
Bundy’s contributions to Penn State have not gone unnoticed. He’s been formally recognized numerous times throughout his time here, earning the Association of Student Activities’ Advisor of the Year award in 2008, the President’s Award for Engagement with Students in 2009, the Lion’s Paw Medal in 2011, and becoming an Alumni Fellow in 2013, the highest award given by the Alumni Association.
Dr. Bundy was honored for his service during halftime at the Homecoming game this year. Photo: Annemarie Mountz
To Bundy, though, it’s the interactions he’s had with students that mean the most to him, not any specific awards or achievements. “I think the messages I’ve received from current and former students this fall will be among my favorite [memories], especially as I head into retirement,” Bundy says. “So many of them have identified memories that often have nothing to do with specific performances but have had a positive impact on them and their Penn State experience that it’s been very humbling to realize the impact of just trying to do your job in the best way possible can have on people.”
Blue Band President Stephen Payne believes students take away deeper lessons from their time with their band director. “Dr. Bundy has made the Blue Band a better organization under his leadership, but more importantly, he has made everyone who has had the privilege to march for him a better person with his emphasis on hard work and integrity,” Payne says. “Above all else, Dr. Bundy cares not just about the Blue Band but about the University his organization serves.”
Photo: Annemarie Mountz
Looking at the big picture, Bundy is proud of the bigger impact the Blue Band has had on Penn State as a whole. “I’m proud of how the band’s performances, school spirit, and conduct can be sources of pride for Penn Staters,” Bundy says, “and that the students have embraced that opportunity and understand it is a responsibility the should not take lightly.”
Payne says students take immense pride in what they do with the band. “Dr. Bundy has a saying: ‘Carpe the Heck out of the Diem.’ He says it as the Blue Band prepares for gamedays or other major performances. It’s all about seizing the opportunities you have in the moment. He understands how special it is for our members to perform in Beaver Stadium, but — more importantly — how special it is that Blue Band members represent Penn State in a way not very many others can.”
Though Bundy’s last time leading the band will be at a bowl game, tomorrow will be his Beaver Stadium finale. On Saturday, the band will pay tribute to Bundy by either playing songs that the director arranged or coordinating the marching sequence for early on in his career with Penn State. “Working to prepare a halftime show to honor Dr. Bundy for his commitment and dedication to our program and to the University is certainly the very least we can do. I know the Blue Band members are excited for the chance to give back and make Dr. Bundy’s last game in Beaver Stadium as our director a very special one,” Payne told Penn State’s Annemarie Mountz.
Though Bundy won’t be at the helm of the Blue Band after this season he still plans to keep busy. He wants to start on the “‘honey-do’ list” his wife has kept for him over the past 35 years, get into his hobbies, spend time with family, and travel, he told the AP’s Mike Sisak. “While I know I will miss the students, staff, and faculty, I’m also looking forward to having the time to pursue some other interests.”
What will he do on football Saturdays, though? “I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic on Saturdays during the fall of 2015 and beyond,” Bundy told Sisak. “I am a Penn Stater through and through and will be cheering on the students and staff of the Blue Band as they continue to ‘raise the song’ for the university we love.”
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