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Life in the PSU Blue Band How many musicians get to perform in front of a crowd of 100,000?
REBECCA LEFEVER Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Another college football bowl season has ended without Penn State on the field, and with Bill O’Brien moving on to NFL fame and fortune, they don’t even have a head coach.
But the Blue Band plays on.
When Chris Hickey picked up the trumpet in fourth grade, he had no idea it would take him to places beyond a simple hobby.
Now 22, the Pennsylvania State University senior has carried that hobby from his childhood to the football field to perform in front of some of the largest crowds in college sports.
Hickey first started playing in formal bands in 10th grade at Warwick High School, where he continued until he graduated in 2010 at the top 10 percent of his class, said his parents, Ed and Adrienne Hickey.
"It’s just feels like something I’ve always done," Chris said. "It seemed natural to keep doing it."
When he entered Penn State in 2010, where he majors in energy business and finance, Hickey joined the university marching band, better known as the Blue Band.
The transition from a high school band to the Blue Band’s 300 members was challenging at first, Hickey said.
"Warwick was very competition based, where each week we focused on getting better for the next challenge," he said.
At Penn State, Hickey focuses more on learning something new for each home game.
Freshman year was just the start of his progressive journey through the band. Hickey was promoted to squad leader his junior year, putting him in charge of four trumpeters.
"I’m responsible for making sure they learn each drill," he said.
At the start of his senior year, Hickey became a guide, putting him in charge of 16 people.
If you’re ever watching a game, you can catch Hickey at the very tip of the ‘S’ when the Blue Band makes the ‘PSU’ formation on the field.
He can also be found as part of the ‘S’ in ‘LIONS’ during its first formation, and then the ‘O’ when the band switches direction and forms ‘LIONS’ facing the opposite side of the field, his parents said.
Before Penn State was sanctioned following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, Hickey traveled to two bowl games, one in Tampa and another in Dallas.
While in Dallas during his sophomore year, his parents said, Hickey felt a sharp pain in his right side. He was determined to keep playing.
When he finally got a plane back to Pennsylvania and hitched a ride to Lititz, he was soon on an operating table at Lancaster General Hospital to have his appendix removed.
As his college experience comes to an end, Hickey said, he’s appreciated his time with the Blue Band. He hopes to use his major to find a job in the energy industry, but also wants to find opportunities to continue playing the trumpet.
"There’s something really great about having met many of my friends through the band," he said.
If the bonds between Penn State students weren’t strong enough, Hickey feels he has enhanced those ties through what started as a hobby.
"The experience of game day alone, there’s nothing like that," he said. "Playing in front of more than 100,000 people is pretty spectacular."
More BLUE BAND, page A18