Professors in Airband
By Gabby Carlson and Chrysa Keenon | Echo
“I Wanna be a Cowboy” by Boys Don’t Cry isn’t hitting any music charts in 2017. But three decades ago, when those of us attending Taylor now were just a twinkle in our parents’ eyes, five students were victorious with their Airband rendition of the cowboy tune. And playing a drum made from a kettle with makeshift cooking utensils was then-freshman Jeff Cramer.
While the legend of Airband continues on today, some of your professors remember glory days of the then newly established Taylor tradition.
Quinn White, Professor of Education
Quinn White was the master of Airband performances, according to fellow faculty. He spent many years choreographing shows, as well as judging them. His most well-known Airband performance, for producing and starring in the performance of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus.”
Not every Airband memory associated with White is a positive one. One of the groups he was in is the reason there is now a screening process for performances.
“Back then they used to have this big huge Jello thing at the salad bar,” White said. “So we (were) painted just like KISS (and) we did one of those rock ‘n roll kicks with the guitar and kicked the Jello so it (went) out into the stands.”
They proceeded to sing “Lick It Up” and a guy walked across the stage and literally licked the Jello up. One band member even had a ketchup packet in his mouth and bit it, so “blood” came out. A professor who was judging then got up and left. From that point on, Airband songs and choreography had to be screened before performing onstage.
Ben Hotmire, Assistant Professor of Education
Ben Hotmire recalled one of his favorite moments of Airband during his time at Taylor. “One of the most memorable acts was a group of ladies that performed their act to ‘Step in Time’ from Mary Poppins. Their choreography and costumes were really impressive. I was a bit disappointed because that group won (instead of some of my friends), but those ladies were definitely deserving. They were a crowd favorite.”
Hotmire does not recall there being any Master of Ceremonies (MC) during his time of attendance. However, he recalls some acts used real trombones, trumpets and drum sets.
Andrew Draper, Assistant Professor of Theology
During his years at Taylor, Andrew Draper lived on Second Samuel Morris. While his floor did not typically participate in the Airband festivities, he recalled one year when the Brotherhood “did the best rendition of the ’80s singer Carman’s ‘The Champion’ the world has ever seen.”
“The Brotherhood’s ‘The Champion’ skit included a bearded guy who played Jesus boxing against a bald guy whose entire head and torso was painted red. It was so terrible that it was awesome,” Draper said.
Despite the talent of Broho, Draper said a team from Wengatz Hall normally took the first place prize. Themes for shows were still as encouraged as they are now. Draper pointed out that overplayed pop songs are generally crowd favorites, even back in the day.
Amy Stucky, Associate Athletic Director
While Amy Stucky never participated directly in Airband as a student, she attended a few times during her studies at Taylor. Stucky remembered the MCs and said their talent managing the house of spectators made the night more hilarious.
According to Stucky, staff members and coaches made regular appearances on stage along with students.
“The administration was always being asked to be part of an act,” Stucky said. “Even the dean of students and hall directors would get involved.”
The audition process simpler in Stucky’s day. According to her, whatever group wanted to be in Airband automatically got in without having to try out. Airband acts centered loosely around a central theme and seemed to lack the competitive spirit that drives the event today.
“I recall one group that used an ironing board as a guitar,” Stucky said. “The more outrageous (the props), the funnier it was.”
Stucky said that Airband in her day was much less of a competition and more of an entertaining evening. Students did not stand outside waiting to get into the chapel for hours like is the norm today; if a student wished to attend, there was always an open seat. Stucky said she believes Airband has transformed into a challenge akin to a reality competition TV show, much like American Idol or Dancing With The Stars.
Jeff Wallace, Chief of Campus Police
Jeff Wallace lived in Swallow Robin Hall during his freshman year at Taylor, the last year when the dorm was occupied exclusively by men. His dorm created an Airband performance that was memorable but “lame,” according to him.
The performance Wallace was in was set in a men’s bathroom where students were getting ready for the morning. Props included toilet plungers and scrub brushes. Unfortunately, this show did not take home a trophy.
While the audition process was not as stressful back then, one year the Airband group Wallace was in got disqualified in the middle of their audition:
“We were just doing a rock song and it was probably questionable . . . not the lyrics, but the implications of some of the things (the singers) were saying, and so (the judges) were like, ‘Nope, nope, nope, you’re done,’ and didn’t let us finish the audition,” said Wallace.
Wallace attributed advances in technology to how big Airband has become. Special effects and light shows were not part of the shows when Wallace attended Taylor.
“(Airband now) is the difference between amatuer and professional . . . I don’t ever remember losing sleep because of Airband,” Wallace said.
Elizabeth Hasenmyer, Assistant Professor of Biology
Elizabeth Hasenmyer met her husband during an Airband performance. She was sitting in the crowd next to her roommate and got introduced to her roommate’s boyfriend’s roommate. Later, they ended up hitting it off and eventually tying the knot.
Hasenmyer herself only participated in one of her wing’s (First West Olson) productions of Airband. Hasenmyer said, “The practices were insane . . . They put me in the back because I had no hand-eye coordination.”
Hasenmyer also recalled how Airband producers would sell DVD recordings of the Airband performances. There was only a single show, and students and parents alike would wait in line to get into the chapel for hours.
Edward Meadors, Professor of Biblical Studies
Last year, Edward Meadors made his Airband debut in a group of off-campus seniors’ rendition of “High School Musical.”
“I was the coach (in ‘Get Your Head in the Game’). I threw a basketball between students and walked around while they did their choreography,” Meadors said.
The choreography had to be changed a bit to incorporate Meadors’ talents. However, he said there was a distinct adrenaline rush to performing in a lip-syncing dance competition that is completely different than speaking in chapel.
Jeff Cramer, Associate Professor of Computer Science & Engineering
During his years studying at Taylor, Jeff Cramer lived on Fourth Samuel Morris and managed to take home a victory at Airband during his freshman year in a group of five performers. He played the drums on a kettle around a fake campfire while his upperclassmen teammates danced to a rendition of “I Wanna Be a Cowboy.” They practiced fewer than five times for their act.
Cramer’s involvement in Airband did not stop there. During his years as a professor, Cramer has made guest appearances in two student acts.
“One year the seniors did a show with the theme song from ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ (My 5-year-old son and I) dressed up like Andy Griffith and his son, and all we did was walk across the stage and walk back. I was holding his hand, and he had a fishing pole. He was a cute little kid, and the crowd went crazy,” Cramer said.
If you were on campus last year, you might remember Cramer as Bowser in First East Olson and The Boys’ Airband show, titled “Super Mario Bros.” The act took first place last year. Cramer said working in that performance was more practice than he had done in any other show and was disappointed that so few of the student body actually recognized him in his costume.
“I think (dancing) is what always made Airband so popular. The choreography may not have been as good (back then), and the sets may not have been as big, but there was always choreographed dancing,” Cramer said. “It was the one night that you kind of got away with dancing.”
Cramer has been on the panel of Airband judges about five times. He recalled seniors starting the trend of mashing up songs in the early `90s, as the previous norm was just picking one or two songs to keep it simple.
Through the years, Cramer has treasured a few favorite Airband performances. Quinn White’s performance of “Rock Me Amadeus” with the members of the cross country team stood out to Cramer during his college years. FOSO’s performance of “Newsies” from about 8 to 10 years ago is his favorite as a professor.