By Marianne Coil
Sixteen-year-old Jalen Pappe was at band practice at Beech Grove H.S., when the band director, Cory Wynn, announced that the Indiana Pacers mascot, Boomer, would march with Jalen on Shadow Night, as a replacement for Jalen’s father, stationed in Iraq with the Indiana National Guard.
Major Cliff Pappe (pronounced Pawp), is a full-time chaplain who serves at Camp Atterbury and at the armory in Lawrence. He’s a “band dad,” according to his wife, Kristina, who keeps up with their five children during his absence, which began in March.
Wynn, who is also an alumni of BGHS, said Shadow Night has been celebrated as far back as the 1990s, when he was in high school. Parents, relatives and friends are invited by band members to wear costumes and follow the performers around the football field as they rehearse a show.
Jalen’s younger sister Taryn shadowed him last year, his mother said. In an email Sunday, Cliff Pappe said he contacted the Pacers in September to arrange a substitute for himself.
“I was not able to be involved last year because of military training, so I wanted to be sure to do something this year, with me being away,” he said.
Jalen was surprised. “He didn’t have a clue until he heard the announcement,” his mother said. After the event Thursday night, Oct. 18, Jalen summarized it as “pretty cool.”
His father, Cliff, said he has been stationed at three bases, where he has been the Protestant chaplain. Pappe and his assistant coordinate a center for care packages and set up events supporting the welfare and morale of soldiers.
Leaving troops as he moves upon order has been tough at times, he said.
“My assistant and I were moved to another base with little notice, so it was difficult to have to tell troops we were leaving,” Cliff said. “After having built relationships and established a presence, there were a few that were pretty heartbroken that we were leaving earlier than expected.”
A bass drummer, Jalen was followed by Boomer throughout an eight-minute routine. Wynn, in his 16th year as band director, said guests have had an “eye-opening experience” as they feel the exertion required to complete the band’s maneuvers.
A BGHS Band Booster, Terri Tucker, remembered her nephew’s reaction when he shadowed one of Tucker’s daughters. A football player at Perry Meridian, the boy commented, “I had no idea how hard it was out there.”
One benefit of belonging to the band is learning to budget time for practice and performance along with other academic activities, according to Tucker, the boosters’ treasurer for accounts payable. The mother of two daughters, freshman Maddie and junior Dianna, Tucker recently accompanied the elder on a college visitation to Purdue University, where a student advised that time management was critical to success.
Of the BGHS Band Boosters, about 30 volunteers are always on hand to assist at events, Tucker said. Parents and relatives bring food, chaperone on buses, build props, sew flags and make alterations to uniforms. Tucker estimated she works five to 10 hours weekly on behalf of the band.
In his email, Pappe said he misses seeing the whole show come together with its colors and dynamics, “from the hot summer practices when the students first learn the show,” to the joy of seeing the band compete and win awards.
The band is getting ready for the Indiana State Music Association (ISMA) semi-state contest Oct. 27 at Pike H.S. Wynn said his band has gone to the state finals for nine of the last 10 years.
The band consists of 106 members, including the flag corps and the drum line, Wynn said. Most members had their initial training in band methods as sixth-graders in the BG school system.
Wynn said the community is “very fortunate” to have a system that supports the band’s feeder program, and to have a history of hiring music educators who built a “culture of excellence.”
Wynn cited a community “icon,” his own band director, Jim Williams. Fulfilling an ambition to return to Beech Grove as band director after college, Wynn took Williams’ place when he retired after 36 years. A graduate of the University of Indianapolis, Wynn previously taught in Shelby County.
In building marching band shows, Wynn collaborates with his assistant director, Jon Carney, and visual designer Joe Martinez. Wynn also consults with an Illinois band director, Craig Fitzpatrick, who makes custom arrangements of the music for each show.
Competition is important, but not primary, Wynn said. “We really try to make competition second to putting on a good show.”
Thanks to an increase in school enrollment, BGHS moved up last year into the Class B tier of contestants. The size of the school determines which tier the band is in.
This year’s ISMA program for BGHS is called “Apples to Oranges.” Wynn says while the show begins with ominous classical themes and dark colors on the field, the themes move to a lighter mood with brighter colors and popular music.
After the ISMA competition the band will prepare for its Christmas concert. Whether Cliff Pappe will be home in time is in doubt. He said it’s possible he could return in late December or early January. This is his second deployment, the first of which was about 15 years ago, his wife said.
In addition to Jalen and Taryn, the Pappes have a daughter, Gracyn, and 8-year-old twins, Tyson, a boy, and a girl, Kennisen.
Kristina Pappe said Cliff joined the National Guard after they were engaged to be married 18 years ago. He graduated from Taylor University with a major in youth ministry and attended Grace Seminary in Winona Lake.
Kristina works in the financial aid office at DePauw University in Greencastle. Originally from near Goshen, Ind., she said she met Cliff on the Internet “a long time ago.”
The band training has given Jalen confidence and an increased sense of responsibility, his mother said, adding that his sister Taryn volunteers with the band in helping to move equipment.
While managing the family in Cliff’s absence has been challenging, Pappe said she was blessed with “two great teenagers.”
“If I didn’t have them, I’m not sure how I’d be doing right now,” she said.