Penn State's Touch of Blue national champions keep twirling all year long

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Heather Bean was almost beside herself with anticipation. The Penn State Blue Band's "Touch of Blue" majorette squad was competing at the National Baton Twirling Association competition, and as coach, she knew that the rest of the squad was watching for her reaction as the results were announced.

"I knew we had the opportunity to do well, because they had worked so hard, and this year our routines were the best we'd ever taken to nationals," said Bean. "The anticipation was almost overwhelming for me."

The payoff at the event, held at Notre Dame shortly before the start of fall semester, was enormous. That day the squad -- the "Jettes," as they call themselves -- won not only first place for Collegiate Dance Twirl Team, but also first place for Collegiate Half Time Show Twirl Champions, College Half-Time Show Twirl Champions and the Collegiate WOW Award for BEST Choreography. In addition, feature twirler and senior Matthew Freeman won Collegiate Solo Champion, Collegiate Downfield Solo Champion and the WOW Award for Most Entertaining Soloist Champion.

"It's not really about the titles, but more about knowing that when we come together as a team and practice, rehearse and perform at one of the top levels of competition, that we're coming together as representatives of a college with a stand-out reputation, ready to show what Penn State stands for, and what the Blue Band stands for."

— Matthew Freeman, senior and feature twirler, Touch of Blue

Bean, Touch of Blue's coach since 1994, said the squad competes for many reasons, the most important of which is to be good ambassadors for the University.

"The reason we go is not just to win competitions -- they want most to represent Penn State and the Blue Band," said Bean. "They fight hard to be the best they can be and show their pride for Penn State. We would have been grateful to win anything that day -- but to win everything, oh my goodness."

"It's not really about the titles," said Freeman, "but more about knowing that when we come together as a team and practice, rehearse and perform at one of the top levels of competition, that we're coming together as representatives of a college with a stand-out reputation, ready to show what Penn State stands for, and what the Blue Band stands for."

Most people know the Touch of Blue squad from fall home football game performances in Beaver Stadium. The members of the squad, including feature twirler Matt Freeman, are part of the larger Penn State Blue Band, which also includes instrumentalists, percussionists, silks and a drum major.

"Touch of Blue and the Blue Band Silks bring a huge amount of visual interest to the impact of the marching band," said O. Richard Bundy, professor of music education and director of the Blue Band since 1996. "We're particularly proud of the success that the majorettes have had in the recent competitions they've been going to, representing Penn State at a very high level."

Bean noted that twirling isn't just a fall activity for the team. In addition to the national championships, squad members bring their Penn State pride to numerous events, clinics and competitions, some of which involve twirlers from across the U.S. and around the world. For example:

-- In February the squad will travel to Walt Disney World in Orlando to compete for the first time, individually and as a team, against other top teams in the nation at the TwirlMania International Championships. TwirlMania is a competition for soloist, teams, corps, high schools, universities and recreational groups in the athletic arena of baton twirling, auxiliary units, pompon and dance.

-- Also in February, Touch of Blue will appear at THON -- the 46-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon -- to help teach the dancers during the Penn State Pride hour and perform at the pep rally. THON will be held the weekend of Feb. 21-23.

-- May 3 and 4 brings the Fifth Annual Blue Sapphire Classic national baton competition to Rec Hall. The fundraising event draws hundreds of in-state and out-of-state twirlers, ranging from toddlers to fifth-year college seniors, to compete in divisions by both age and skill level. All funds raised from the Blue Sapphire Classic go to the Lori Bowers and David Uhazie Endowed Scholarship, for the Blue Band feature twirler.

-- The squad will hold its annual Twirling Day Camp in early summer, an opportunity for local twirlers from ages 5 to 18 to receive instruction from the Touch of Blue majorettes, including Freeman.

-- At the same time, the squad will be preparing over the months for the next National Baton Twirling Association competition, to be held in July at the University of Notre Dame.

-- The year comes full circle as August brings Band Camp, and then the intense preparations for fall football season begin once again. Games at Beaver Stadium, the TailGreat Blue Band Huddle, Rally in the Valley and the Homecoming Parade -- such activities and more carry them through December.

Members of the squad also are full-time students who are expected to keep high academic standards, and are required to take a one-credit course -- Music 081 -- each fall semester as Blue Band members.

"It's a huge commitment, but experiences like this create great memories and really cement a student's connection to the University," said Bundy.

Auditions for Touch of Blue majorettes will be held Saturday, April 5, with a separate audition to be scheduled for the position of solo twirler. Auditions for Blue Band instrumentalists, percussionists and silks will be held in August. More audition information can be found on the Blue Band website online.

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Last Updated February 05, 2014