Meet Chris Siergiej, the newest Pennsylvania State University Marching Blue Band drum major. This past Saturday, Siergiej (pronounced SIR-gee) was chosen above nine other candidates to lead the Blue Band in 2013. Siergiej, who played saxophone in his first three years, is entering his fourth season with the Blue Band.
We caught up with Siergiej the day after his successful audition to find out how he prepared and what he’s excited for moving forward, among other things.
Onward State: What was the audition process like? How did you prepare?
Chris Siergiej: The audition process consisted of an interview and the audition day. Prior to the audition day, I interviewed with Dr. Bundy and discussed past leadership experiences, memorable musical moments before and during Blue Band, and the importance of the position. On the day of the audition, we performed two front flips from a running start, two strut runs, and three strut-flip-salute “packages”. After that, we conducted to recordings of Fight on State, The Star Spangled Banner, and Alma Mater. We were scored on our interview, our flipping audition, and our conducting, and then the judges deliberated for over an hour.
Another candidate and I ended in a tie, and we were invited back for a run off two weeks later. At that audition, we performed two “full packages” — a strut, flip, and salute, and then immediately a strut, flip, and salute in the opposite direction. The judges deliberated for about twenty minutes before Dr. Bundy made his announcement.
OS: In addition to leading the Blue Band in the public eye, what other responsibilities/duties are associated with your new role?
CS: During practice, the drum major leads warm up stretches and calisthenics, essentially pumping up the band for rehearsal. In addition to conducting at the games and performing the flip, the drum major leads the rookies and returnees in marching fundamentals throughout the year. Other responsibilities include assisting the staff by teaching drill during rehearsals and making public appearances at campus events.
OS: What sort of things will you be doing this summer in preparation for the upcoming season? Has Ian Kenney provided any tips?
CS: I think there will be a lot of mental preparation — after all, over 100,000 people will be counting on me to land the flip! Other than that, I’m going to use this summer to perfect my flip and get in the best physical shape I can be. I’m meeting to speak with Ian later this week, so we’ll see what he has to say!
OS: Do you know of any Drum Major traditions or secrets that you’re allowed to share with us?
CS: I’m not sure if this is a tradition, but during audition day when Dr. Bundy congratulated me on being selected, he handed me the drum major whistle. To me, this token represents the 53 other drum majors before me, and I felt humbled that the staff felt confident in me to uphold the position.
OS: What are the chances of you nixing the the pregame flip and doing something else instead? A somersault would look quite elegant.
CS: You’ll have to wait until fall to find out!
OS: In all seriousness, can you talk a little bit about the physical and mental challenges related to successfully landing the flip?
CS: Getting over the fear of landing on your head is the most difficult mental challenge to overcome. If you bail mid-flip, you’ll lose all your rotation and most likely get hurt by landing on your head (this happened to me once — my neck hurt for about a week!). Jumping up — and not forward — gives you the necessary height to successfully land the flip.
OS: I’ve heard that before every home football game, Greg Drane (Assistant Director) forces the drum major to arrive at the Blue Band Building at 2 in the morning. From there, he’ll make you un-dread and then re-dread his dreadlocks. Do you have any experience in that field?
CS: How else do you think Mr. Drane keeps his dreadlocks looking good on game day! Luckily for him, dreadlocks are my speciality.
OS: With so much space, what sort of things are you planning on keeping inside your hat?
CS: I’m thinking…Game day cookies. They’ll melt inside my hat and perhaps reach the quality of the cookies in West — gooey, warm, and delicious!
OS: What are you most looking forward to about next season?
CS: Performing the flip in the stadium will be an exhilarating experience. But on top of that, I’m looking forward to working together with the staff and other student leaders to help make the Blue Band the best it can be!
OS: If you were a dinosaur, what kind would you be, and why?
CS: A pterosaurs — I’d be able to fly!