10 Questions With Blue Band Drum Major Keith Griffith

While we may not have seen it take the field yet this fall, the Penn State Blue Band has been hard at work this summer.

In August, the band announced Keith Griffith as its drum major for the 2020-2021 season. He’s now the 60th student to take up the prestigious mantle in the Blue Band’s storied history.

We sat down with Griffith to discuss the Blue Band, his role as drum major, and how he’s making the most of the band’s most atypical season to date.

Onward State: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Keith Griffith: I’m a fifth-year senior majoring in engineering science with a minor in biomedical engineering. I’m from Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, so 20 minutes outside of State College…as close as you can be to being a townie without being a townie – that’s what I like to say.

OS: Can you talk a little bit about the Blue Band?

KG: The Blue Band is a group of, in my opinion, some of the best musicians at the university. It’s the group that you see playing on the field on Saturdays – kind of a different look this year – but we’re known for the parades, playing on the field, our “floating lions,” that’s our M.O.

OS: When did you first join the Blue Band and why?

KG: I first joined the Blue Band my freshman year, so the fall of 2016, which was the year we won the Big Ten Championship. I say “we” like I played the games, but…

And then I joined because I did marching band in high school, and I knew I wanted to get involved. I grew up watching the Blue Band, and they have always been something that is super cool. There’s definitely more eloquent ways to say it, but the Blue Band is amazing.

OS: Why did you want to become the drum major?

KG: To give back. I spent four years as a playing member of the trumpet section, and I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could give back to the trumpet section as a leader in those positions. I wanted the opportunity to have a large-reaching impact, not only on the trumpet section, but on the whole band, the whole university, and every Penn State fan.

OS: How is your role as drum major different this year than year’s past?

KG: My role hasn’t changed. A lot of people see the flip in Beaver Stadium, but in my opinion, the flip is really only 5% of what a drum major does. So whether that’s leading and teaching through band camp, helping people musically, or getting us from point A to point B, there’s so much more that a drum major does than “the flip.”

OS: Is there anything you were looking forward to that you won’t be able to do this year?

KG: It’s hard to say because we don’t know exactly what the future holds. It’s hard to say, “Yeah, I’m not going to be able to get to do this,” but I’ve had a lot of opportunities that other drum majors haven’t.

I’ve been able to interact so much more with individual members this year than other drum majors because when we’re focusing on getting ready for a show, I don’t necessarily get the opportunity to be as hands-on, if that makes sense.

OS: How are you making the most of today’s challenges?

KG: I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to even be here. I didn’t know I was getting a fifth year, and the fact that I do is a bonus. I think COVID-19 has really shown us that you can’t take anything for granted. You don’t know when the last time you’re going to march out of the tunnel will be.

OS: Is there anything the Blue Band is doing differently this year that you think they should continue to do post-pandemic?

KG: For me, I’m a big proponent of “why.” Something that we have been working on is asking members, “Why do you come to practice?”. Especially this year, when we’re not spending all this time at the football games. We’ve been reaching out to alumni of the Blue Band and asking them to share their “why,” and I think that’s a project that should continue.

OS: Do you want to share anything with your fellow Nittany Lions?

KG: Reach out to those that are having a hard time. Check in on people, make sure people are doing OK, and wear your mask so we can see those people in person sooner rather than later.

OS: As per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which would you be and why?

KG: Oh man…I enjoy flying, so I think being a pterodactyl would be super cool.

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About the Author

Abby Han

Abby is a freshman chemistry major from Hershey, Pennsylvania -- which means she's your gal whenever you have a craving for some chocolate. Born and raised a Nittany Lion, she loves all things Penn State. You can typically find her watching Friends, drinking Bubly, or taking timer pics on Snapchat. If you want to exchange cheesy puns, follow her on Twitter @_abbyhan.

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