Blue Band assistant celebrates 25th year as everyone's 'band mom'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When entering the Blue Band Building on Penn State’s University Park campus you will find numerous pictures, day-by-day schedules for the coming months and an excited and involved staff assistant, Karen Walk.

Now in her 34th year at Penn State and 25th season with the Blue Band, Walk has dedicated seemingly countless hours to assisting the band, its director, O. Richard Bundy, and his staff.

Upon graduating from Bald Eagle Area High School in 1978, Walk took a position in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. After nine years, she sought a new challenge and applied for the Blue Band staff assistant position under then-director Ned C. Deihl.

“When I interviewed for the position I said I had experience with band,” Walk said. “After leaving the interview, Dr. Deihl shouted to me in the hall, ‘By the way, what’s the fingering for a low D?’ I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t lying about my experience. I yelled back, ‘First and third.’ ”

Shortly after her interview, Walk received the position.

Over the years, she has experienced a lot of the Blue Band's growth and development. She has seen one change of directors, in 1996 when Deihl retired and Bundy took his place. Walk also was present during the process of two building changes. When she joined the Blue Band staff, its office was housed in Chambers Building until moving to what is now known as Music Building II in 1994. After 10 years, in 2004, Walk and the rest of the Blue Band faculty and staff moved up the road to their own building, the Blue Band Building, north of Park Avenue.

Many people had wanted the band to have its own building for so long, Walk explained. “Moving to the building made such a difference,” she added.

Since she joined the Blue Band staff, Walk’s responsibilities have expanded a great deal. She is now involved in most aspects of the Blue Band, both administratively and interactively.

“Karen is the only full-time staff person,” Bundy said. “She greets people, takes care of the budget, acts as a receptionist, supervises part-time staff, organizes other staff members, deals with University systems and more. She does a terrific job.”

Walk also spends a lot of time working with the students and members of the Blue Band. She’s responsible for contacting the student officers, supervising students, takes care of feeding more than 300 students -- at the Labor Day picnic, before Football Eve and Rally in the Valley, every game day and every meal while traveling -- along with a variety of other responsibilities.

“She genuinely enjoys the students, so this position gives her a good amount of contact with our students,” Bundy said. “Because she genuinely likes and enjoys students, she will maintain contact outside of the band and once they graduate.”

Walk has made an impact on many of them, and most consider her to be more than just a staff person.

“Current members view her as the official band mom,” Bundy said. “In high school bands there’s almost always a band parent that takes care of the band. Karen is the Blue Band’s band mom. Members go to her with questions about band or even personal questions.”

Walk's attitude and involvement with students has not gone unnoticed by band members.

“Karen is one of the kindest, most genuine and dedicated people that I have ever met,” said drum major Ian Kenney, a senior majoring in music education from Wallenpaupack, Pa. “I can't remember a time that I have walked into the Blue Band Building and not seen her hard at work to make sure that everything runs flawlessly for the band. ”

Walk has created numerous memories throughout her 25 years with the Blue Band, but mentioned several as her favorites.

“The Blue Band had its 100th anniversary in 1999,” Walk said. “There was a black tie gala, 100th year logo and half-time show. We got to re-create the original six who started as the Blue Band at Penn State during halftime at the first game of the 1999 season. The six members entered the field in period clothing to a drum cadence ahead of the rest of the band. It was a really fun time. Gives me goose-bumps just re-creating it in my mind!”

Although she goes beyond her eight to five duties, and days can be stressful and demanding, Walk said she feels she is very blessed.

“Every year I think, ‘How am I so lucky to be around so many wonderful people?’ ” Walk said. “I am so blessed to have the best of the best.”

Contacts: 

Kelly Newburg

Last Updated October 11, 2011