Penn State drum major Frisbie follows in family footsteps

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Schreyer Honors College Scholar Jimmy Frisbie, playing in the Penn State Marching Blue Band is a family tradition. Frisbie’s parents met in the band, his uncle was a band member and his grandfather served as president of the band in 1960. When Frisbie arrived on campus in 2013, he knew he wanted to play trumpet for the renowned Blue Band and that opportunity alone was enough for him.

“I never dreamed of becoming drum major; I just wanted to make the band,” Frisbie said. “I thought [making the band] was the biggest dream possible.”

Performing before more than 107,000 fans each home game Saturday at Beaver Stadium during his first two years, and then for the Nittany Lion’s dramatic overtime bowl win at Yankee Stadium, it may have seemed like the dream couldn’t get better. It did, but not without the hard work and commitment that often occurs away from the spotlight.

Several months into his involvement with the band, Frisbie became interested in the drum major position. He started conversations with drum major Chris Siergiej, a senior Schreyer Scholar who held the position for the last two years. Siergiej began working with Frisbie, especially on the signature drum major flip, which would take Frisbie six months of practice to land.

Siergiej, along with Frisbie’s girlfriend, Brooke, and a friend from his hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia, volunteered to give Frisbie a few gymnastics lessons to help him. He joined the club gymnastics team and also has signed up to take some private lessons this summer.

His skills were put to the test at the drum major auditions in April. He had to perform flips, struts and splits, as well as conduct the band. After an hour and a half of deliberation by the judges, he was informed that he would be the next drum major.

While Nittany Lion fans are counting the days until the home kickoff, Frisbie is looking at that same countdown as more time he has for preparation and practice.

“It’s just such a humbling thing, because there were so many good candidates, and it still hasn’t really hit me yet,” he said, adding that he was so excited he could barely eat the day after he was selected.

While many people recognize the drum major by his signature flip, Frisbie said the position holds many other responsibilities. As drum major, he will be a member of the Blue Band’s Officer Executive Board, will serve as the liaison between the band and University administrative staff and will conduct the band during football games. He also will help run rehearsals and drills and teach new incoming band members.

“It’s so fun to conduct such a large group with so many talented musicians,” he said. “I know I’m just going to be blown away.”

It will be easy to recognize Frisbie as he leads the Blue Band onto the field for the Sept. 12 home opener against the Buffalo Bulls. This summer, however, he’ll trade in his band uniform for a lab jacket.

When his father was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia last April, Frisbie inquired about the possibility of working with a Penn State research team studying a metabolite that has shown promise for therapy during trials with mice. An immunology and infectious diseases major in the College of Agricultural Sciences, he will write his thesis based on the research he conducts this summer, with plans on attending medical school after graduation.

In August, Frisbie will participate in the Blue Band’s band camp and then jump right into a busy fall semester. While he admits that he will be nervous on game day, he is excited about the opportunities.

“The drum major has a unique position where, instead of leading the band, he can serve the band,” Frisbie said. “I’ll have my little spotlight, but I want to spotlight the band, I want to make the band better. I think that the coolest part of being drum major is that you actually have the influence to make that happen.”

Penn State's Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first year of enrollment, total more than 1,800 students at University Park and six Commonwealth campuses.

Last Updated June 15, 2015