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Five-Hundred Students Strike Up the All-American Band

June 24, 1986

WAYNE, N.J. (AP) _ A suburban college campus is being rattled with the ″oompah″ of 40 sousaphones - and 460 other band pieces - as marching musicians from across the nation practice to become the Statue of Liberty All-American Marching band.

The ensemble, billed as ″the best of the best″ among college band musicians, is the first unit of thousands of performers to arrive in the New York area for the upcoming Liberty Weekend extravaganza.

Their arrival has temporarily consumed William Paterson College. The suburban campus, 20 miles northwest of the statue in New York Harbor, has been turned into a big brass boot camp, where players practice 14 hours a day.

Drummers practicing Monday in the hot sun rattled the windows of almost every building. A collection of 40 sousaphones moaned like the fog horn of an ocean liner.

″You don’t wear this thing like a french dress 3/8″ a drill sergeant-style coach barked at the sousaphone brigade. He ordered the players to bear their burden smartly, ″so the bell’s straight up and down with your toes.″

Despite a rushed 17-day rehearsal schedule, trainers and musicians agreed the band’s every move must be perfect, because it will perform prominently on national television.

It is scheduled to play a 10-minute medley of show tunes during the weekend closing ceremony July 6 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.

The group will also perform during the July 4 fireworks display at New York Harbor, and at other times during the four days of festivities marking the statue’s 100th birthday.

″OK, we’re all cooking now 3/8″ band director Arthur C. Bartner yelled into the public address system. Bartner, a Maplewood, N.J., native and director of the University of Southern California band, also directed the 750-piece band at the 1984 Oylmpics in Los Angeles.

Below him, with just two days of rehearsal under their patent-leather belts, the ensemble blasts into a medley: ″Ease On Down the Road,″ ″On A Clear Day,″ and ″A Chorus Line.″

Band members were picked from 92 colleges and universities, suggested by their individual band leaders. Expenses are being paid with Liberty Weekend funds.

″It’s neat. I think it’s really cool,″ said Karol Schmitz, a mellophone player from Iowa State University.

Miss Schmitz, a senior from Joliet, Ill., said the toughest thing so far has been learning to march to different drummers. Big Ten marchers strut their white boots, lifting their knees high. Ivy Leaguers, with feet more accustomed to Bass Wejuns, barely shuffle along.

″I’m tired. I’m burned out, but I want more,″ said snare drummer Jim Martin of West Covina, Calif., a freshman at USC. ″We gotta make this sharp.″

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