A Beacon in the Storm
On a bitterly cold November night, members of the Austin Peay State College Governors Own Marching Band sat shivering during a Springfield High School football game. They’d travelled to Robertson County on a recruiting mission, and when the whistle blew ending the second quarter, the students marched onto the frozen football field for one of their famous halftime performances. That’s when the snow started falling.
“By mid-way through the show, our feet and legs were numb, and the snow was coming down so thick and fast, we could not see the stripes on the field, or see more than one or two band mates in our formation,” Dr. Ron Miller (’65), a former GOMB member, recalled.
Most of the people in the stands couldn’t make out what was happening on the field, but Miller and the others knew that hardly mattered. It was the early 1960s, which meant Dr. Aaron Schmidt was standing on the sidelines, watching the band as it trudged through the snow.
Schmidt, the band’s famed director, was known around campus as a perfectionist. He held long, grueling practices before the start of each fall semester to make sure his students knew the entire season’s halftime music by heart. When he told the band members assembled on those August afternoons that they would have a cleaner, more precise look by not carrying sheet music, they stared back at him, dumbfounded.
“In order to maintain that kind of discipline over 50–60 band members,” Miller said, “many of whom were music majors with sizeable egos, Dr. Schmidt always started the first rehearsal with these sentences: ‘Some of you are under the impression you live in a democracy. You are wrong. This is a dictatorship, and I am the dictator. If you can’t live with that, you can leave now.’”
His discipline is what led the Governors Own Marching Band to be considered one of the premier marching bands in the region. But this reputation was in jeopardy on that cold night in Springfield. The musicians on the field, blinded by the snow, were in danger of colliding with each other.
“This situation quickly led the otherwise precise and disciplined APSU band into complete chaos,” Miller said. “But a hero emerged. Eddie Cary, a trumpet player from Erin, had a Conn trumpet with a bright red Coprion bell.”
In the midst of the performance, Cary made his way to the middle of the football field and began swinging his trumpet in the air.
“Eddie stood in the center of the field holding up his trumpet and yelling ‘red light’ whenever two squads of marchers were about to collide,” Miller said. “That saved the potential destruction of many instruments, and injury to band members.”
The performance wasn’t a disaster, but it didn’t live up to the standards set by Schmidt. That’s why few people ever mentioned it again.
“Since that was the most disastrous show the Governors Own ever marched, it was soon forgotten,” Miller said.
If you know of any APSU legends, either true or unconfirmed, please contact Charles Booth at email@example.com.