WASHINGTON — Washington native Matt Riney will be making history with the Purdue University All-American Marching Band this Thanksgiving as he marches with the band in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The parade is an 86-year-old American holiday tradition, yet college bands have been included only in the past five years, according to a Purdue Bands press release. Purdue’s All-American Marching Band is the first Big Ten band to be selected, and Riney will be part of the drumline as they make their debut on the famous 6-mile, three-hour parade route.
“I have always watched the parade on television, but never imagined that I would one day be a part of it,” he said, adding that he’s excited about the event.
The band’s performance is top secret, but Riney said viewers can expect a great show. He explained that details are being guarded to ensure a surprise for viewers. However, according to the press releases, there will plenty of familiar moves, such as the spinning “Big Bass Drum,”
horn moves, swagger steps and twirls.
“We entertain all the way up and down the street, and that’s one of our strengths,” said Assistant Marching Band Director Max Jones in the press release. “It sets us apart from other bands.”
A senior math education major at Purdue, Riney has been in the band all five years of his college career and has been a student leader for the last three years, taking on responsibility for how well the bass drums perform. He said that includes having music memorized, marching the drill and executing visuals.
“Student leader is a leadership position that you have to audition for,”
Riney explained. “Student leaders are responsible for their section.
Since the band is so large, the directors can’t always be there for everyone. The student leaders are there to help people, fix problems and make sure their section is performing at their best.”
Riney said he had to make it through several rounds of auditions to become a member of Purdue Bands.
“In order to stay in, you have to audition annually,” he said. “Being in the band is a huge time commitment. We practice for at least two hours every weekday. We also have special practices for our section, and then we have dress rehearsals before every game, and of course all of the time that we spend at performances.
“During the marching season, I play strictly bass drums. However, I am also involved in some of Purdue’s concert bands, percussion ensemble, and the Lafayette Citizens Band, where I play a variety of different percussion instruments.”
Purdue All-American Marching Band is renowned for its Big Bass Drum, also often called the World’s Largest Drum, and Riney said he’s had the opportunity to bang the “BBD.”
“It is awesome to hit that drum,” he said. “Your whole body shakes after you hit it.”
His time in Purdue Bands has been filled with interesting experiences.
“My five years in band have been some of the most fun years of my life,”
Riney said. “I have made some really great friends, grown as a musician, and been able to support my school in a really great way. It is because of band that I have been able to represent Purdue in Orlando, Detroit, China, at the Indianapolis 500, and at many of the other Big Ten Schools. Soon I will be able to add New York to the list.
“I have done lots of traveling with the band. I have accompanied them to two bowl games and on a trip to China to perform for some pre-Olympics festivities. We were invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture as one of the ensembles to represent the United States. I have performed at many football games at Purdue, and in away games at Notre Dame, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, and IU throughout my tenure. The All-American Marching Band is the official band of the Indy 500, and I have participated in the 500 parade and pre-race ceremonies for four years. I look forward to every trip we take, because they are so much fun.”
The band has traveled to South America, Asia, Canada, and Europe on various trips. Among other places, the band went to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933; Expo ’70 in Japan in 1970; The Netherlands for the 1974 World Music Festival; Washington, D.C., for the 1989 Inaugural Parade; and China for the International Arts & Music Festival in 2008. It has appeared at the Indianapolis 500 every year since 1919 and in numerous bowl games.
In 2011 Purdue Bands will celebrate 125 years of musical history. From one band with 13 members in 1886, the organization has grown to 830 students participating in marching, jazz and concert bands, orchestras, and chamber music. The All-American Marching Band is the flagship ensemble and a source of pride, according to Jay Gephart, director of bands. This year, there are 372 members in marching band, making it one of the biggest in the nation, according to Purdue.
In 1907 it was the first marching band to break ranks and create a formation of any kind on the football field. In 1921 the 10-foot-tall, 500-pound “World’s Largest Drum” was added. In 1935, during the Big Ten’s first night football game, the marching band performed a lighted halftime show; it was that performance that earned the band its nickname when a CBS announcer described it as “a real all-American band.” In the 1960s and 1970s, Purdue band members were the first from a college to perform at Radio City Music Hall. In 1969, Purdue alumni baritone player Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon. In 2008, the band was the first college band to be invited to play by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China.
“I am extremely proud to be a member of Purdue’s All-American Marching band,” Riney said. “Being in the band is one of the most awesome experiences of my life. It is really neat to be a member of an organization with such a rich history. The Purdue All-American Marching band is a pioneer in the world of marching bands. For example, we were the first band ever to break ranks and make pictures on the field.”
The son of Steve and Pat Riney of Washington, Matt got his start in band at Washington Community Schools, where he was a member of the marching band at Washington High School. He said he played in the front ensemble his first three years since he also played football, then marched bass drum his senior year.
“I started band as a percussionist in the sixth grade and have been playing ever since,” he said. “I play all types of percussion
instruments: bass drum, timpani, drum set, marimba, etcetera.”
Riney said he’d like to move back to Southwestern Indiana after graduating from Purdue, but it will depend upon the available job opportunities.
Tune in to watch Riney in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at 9 a.m.
Thursday on NBC.