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Band geek nirvana: A step onto the field at Beaver Stadium moves this Middletown band member


foursome10 7 15WEBPosing for a selfie outside Beaver Stadium are Middletown Area High School Blue Wave Band members, from left, Fabiola Hernandez, Katlyn Miller, Shayna Cole and Jenna Abbott.




I am a band geek. But I couldn’t be prouder.

Being a part of the Middletown Area High School Blue Wave Band has given me such great experiences that I was able to share with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.  From bus ride gossip to inside jokes at band camp to third quarter breaks at football games to taking trips to Disney World and New York City, I’ve had the best times of my life in the band.

Band has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people and do amazing things – most recently participating in the Unrivaled Band Jam at Penn State University.

Waking up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday is pretty difficult for most teenagers – myself included – but on the morning of Sept. 26, I had no problem with it. I jumped out of bed – OK, a slight exaggeration – and prepared to go to the high school where other band members were waiting to leave for Penn State.

Our buses left for State College promptly at 9 a.m., which is possibly the first time that our band has ever left on time.

Around 11 a.m., we arrived at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State’s campus, where the Band Jam would take place. We had enough time to walk around, but a few of my friends and I went back to the buses earlier than the rest of the band. That is when we saw an absolutely amazing drumline practicing different cadences.

The snare drummer on one end would throw his drum stick to the snare on the other side, and they would continue playing. The entire drumline had choreography with their music, both of which were mesmerizing, and the cymbal players rolled their cymbals on the ground as if they were wheels.

The whole scene was entertaining to watch – and they really got us excited for the Band Jam. We later found out that the drumline, from the Sussex Technical School, was so great because their director was the former drum major of Penn State’s Blue Band.

After being completely enraptured by the glorious Sussex drumline routine, it was Middletown’s time to enter the Bryce Jordan Center. Filed in rows of twos, we walked through the tunnel leading into the arena. My jaw dropped when we stepped onto the floor. A sense of awe swept over me – I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be so large.

I was even more shocked when we were led to our seats: They were on the floor, front row, right in front of the Blue Band’s seats.

At exactly 1:15 pm, the Blue Band marched through the same doors of the Bryce Jordan Center that we and twelve other bands had marched through earlier.  We heard the band before we saw them, and what a sight it was. The band, along with their majorettes and color guard, spread throughout the entire floor of the basketball court.
Once their cadence ended, they began to tune – and it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard produced. Their A-flat warmup almost brought me to tears. I can’t even begin to describe how incredible their music was.
The Blue Band stood still to play their music, but the majorettes and color guard danced. The featured twirler – she is called the Blue Sapphire – was directly in front of me. Being a dancer, I mostly watched the majorettes, and the Blue Sapphire mesmerized me. I couldn’t stop watching her. She threw her baton so high and did so many spins and acrobatic moves while the silver stick was soaring in the air – and she caught it every time.

Almost every time. She dropped it only once. It fell right at my feet.

To tell you the truth, I fan-girled a little bit.

After all 800 of us high school band members settled down from the Blue Band’s phenomenal performance, it was our turn to show them our talent. Each of the 12 bands played one song.  Although we were only the fourth band to perform, we saw the talent of other bands, so we were slightly intimidated to play.

Sam Fisher, our director, told us to stand and face the audience in the arena. We raise our instruments to our mouths, and he counted, “1,2,1,2,3,4.”  Let me tell you, we’ve played “Dark Horse” so many times at Middletown football games and in the band room, but we have never played it as well as we did that day.

After the last chord, the audience cheered, and we all held our instruments up to the crowd with this sense of pride in ourselves.

It was such a humbling experience to have people that you don’t know cheering so loudly for you. That’s when you know you’ve done a great job.

Once the last high school band performed, it was time for all of us to play the most well-known grandstand song alongside the Blue Band: “Hey Baby.”  Everyone was excited to play it because it’s usually every band member’s favorite ‘stand song, and we were going to play it with the Blue Band!

But that plan didn’t work out too well. With 12 bands and a high arena ceiling, there was an incredible echo. The sound bounced off the ceiling and reverberated back, throwing many of the musicians off. So instead of hearing “Hey Baby,” it was more like “Hey Babies.” It didn’t sound so great.  However, I thought it was hilarious, as did my other flute friends, Shannon and Jenna. We didn’t even play part of the song because we were laughing so hard!

Following the “Hey Baby” fiasco, each band selected five senior representatives to hold the American flag at the beginning of Penn State’s football game at Beaver Stadium. Our band chose six representatives: our drum major, Samantha Altland; band president Meaghan Nelson; treasurer Eric Belles; drumline captain Nicole Whittle; equipment manager Michael Osayi; and me, band secretary.

Each of us was handed a badge to wear, declaring us “American flag handlers,” so we all felt very official.
Because everyone there was in marching band, we marched the whole way to Beaver Stadium in cadence with the gock block.  Our marching block formation was constructed of rows of five, even though there were six of us Middletown students. It was quite the spectacle trying to cram six teenagers into a line made for five – but, somehow, we did it.

The walk, or march, to Beaver Stadium was longer than we had expected, but we passed the time by talking about the day’s experiences and laughing through the pain of our shin splints.

When we finally arrived at Beaver Stadium, we didn’t enter through the normal entrance – the stadium staff raised a cargo gate for us to go through instead.

Then we walked right onto the field.

Holding the American flag was a special experience because we were chosen to honor our country in that way, and there was a sense of unity between all of our bands. But the transition from a small-town football field to a college stadium was more fascinating to me.

Going from War Memorial Field to Beaver Stadium was such an overwhelming transformation. At War Memorial, the band has performed for, maybe, 200 people, whereas there are more than 100,000 spectators at Beaver Stadium. Even though we weren’t performing on the field, it was still breathtaking to look up and see how many people were in the stands. I felt like a single particle of dust floating in the universe.  

Standing in the end zone, we could see everything. The Penn State cheerleaders were directly in front of us. I’ll be honest; I am not a big fan of cheerleaders, but seeing them do amazing tricks, twisting in the air and trusting the others to catch them, gave me a new respect for cheerleaders.

And that is a huge statement coming from a band geek.

On the field, we could watch the Penn State and San Diego St. football players warming up. I noticed one of my band mates, Mike Osayi, who also plays football for the Blue Raiders, grinning from ear to ear. He hopes to play football in college. “I can’t wait to do this next year,” he said.

This trip wasn’t just a portal to inspiring us to join band in college, but also an opportunity to inspire us in different ways. I’m sure someone else in another band was inspired by the cheerleaders, or the majorettes, or even the mascot.

For me, the Blue band’s field show was the most inspiring part of the day. I had been to a Penn State game before and saw the band, but to be on the field with them to watch their show was a completely different experience. I felt as though I was a part of them instead of simply being a spectator.

Each major chord resonated in my chest, and I couldn’t help but lean forward to see more of the performance. My eyes were saucers glued to the sea of blue and white uniforms, silver and gold instruments. My lips were curled into the widest smile, my hands clasped at my chest.

Watching the Blue Band forced a wave of band memories to rush over me, all of which were great. It was a bittersweet moment because I realized how much I’ll miss my current band members when I go off to college in the fall, but it also made me excited to experience college marching band, and college in general.  

Throughout the entire performance, a single thought was running through my mind over and over. It was the same thing Mike had said.

“I can’t wait to do this next year.”

Even though I’m not planning to attend Penn State next fall, our band’s trip to the Penn State game showed me how much I want to pursue marching band through college, no matter where I go.

And while I’m still a high school band geek, I want to send a sincere thank you to everyone in the Middletown Blue Wave Band for making my four years of high school band the best years of my life. I’ll miss it.  

-- Katlyn Miller is a senior flute player in the Middletown Area High School marching band.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 October 2015 15:01

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'A Brighter Beacon': At HIA, an exhibit offers courage to women with breast cancer

speakers9 30 15WEBPress And Journal Photo by Jim Lewis -- Tim Edwards, standing, executive director of Harrisburg International Airport, talks about the exhibit featuring cancer survivors.


Among the harried travelers, officious airline ticket agents and busy skycaps in the terminal of Harrisburg International Airport are the photos of 67 Pennsylvania women, all breast cancer survivors, and their words of inspiration and hope.

Young and old – the youngest diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 22, the oldest at 78 – each woman’s picture on the array of banners that encircle the terminal is followed by her encouragement. “I survived,’’ one woman, Judi Blue, of Philadelphia woman proclaims, “because God’s plan for me was to be a brighter beacon to those in the storm.’’

The exhibit, called “67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania,’’ was formally welcomed at a reception on Thursday, Sept. 24 at HIA. It will be shown through Sunday, Oct. 4.

The exhibit was created by the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, a group formed in 1993 to advocate for cancer research and provide support for survivors and women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the 1990s, women who survived breast cancer felt stigmatized by society, shamed that they had been diagnosed, said Pat Halpin-Murphy, the coalition’s founder and president.

Breast cancer “didn’t have the public face it does now,’’ said Halpin-Murphy, because women were hesitant to say they were survivors. Because of women bravely coming forward, like the women in the exhibit, “anyone who wishes to can stand up and say, ‘I’m a breast cancer survivor’ ” and provide support to those who are newly-diagnosed, she said.

Daily, 37 women in Pennsylvania are diagnosed with breast cancer. About 140,000 women in Pennsylvania are living with breast cancer, while nationally there are 2.8 million survivors.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 16:53

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Iron Teacher: Think Brit Lit is tough? He competes in triathlons

finish9 30 15WEBSubmitted Photo -- Daniel Mikula crosses the finish line at Challenge Cedar Point as his children joyously follow.

It was time to put nine intense months of training to the test. Daniel Mikula was ready to enter the chilly water at 7 a.m., where he was to swim 2.4 miles. His plunge in the 63-degree lake was the start of a grueling day – a 138-mile biking and running tour of Sandusky, Ohio was to follow.

Before it started, he and the other competitors gathered at 5:30 a.m., shivering in the brisk morning air. He chatted with a man who was competing in the same age group, a priest from down South. The variety of athletes in the competition was one of Mikula’s favorite things. “We shared training stories and small talk,’’ Mikula recalled, “and he told me he would pray for me.’’

Mikula, an English teacher at Lower Dauphin High School, overcame knee surgery before he even started training for the Sept. 13 triathlon. He wanted to arrive at Challenge Cedar Point ready to turn in one of the best times for what USA Triathlon characterizes as an “ultra-distance triathlon.” In comparison, the Olympic triathlon is a total of 31 miles.

He brought something else with him – inside him – to the race. He used this competition, an "Iron Man" distance triathlon (though not sponsored by the Iron Man branded company), to raise $1,500 for the Children's Miracle Network, a charity that raises money for children in the hospital at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

"I thought about kids at the hospital during the darkest moments," Mikula said. "Kids struggling and fighting every day are much braver." Mikula found his own way to help the children at the hospital, while his wife, Dr. Margaret Mikula, had her own way as a pediatrician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

The $1,500 in donations for the day was arranged through a Web site that Children's Miracle Network set up for Mikula. With his finishing time in the Challenge Cedar Point, Mikula raised about $133 per hour during the triathlon. "It's a reminder of how generous friends and family are," he said. Donations through this site continued after the race, he said.

Mikula, a former competitive collegiate swimmer (at Xavier University in Cincinnati) finished the first slice of the competition with an enviable time of one hour, one minute and 30 seconds. Bad weather had forced the cancellation of the prior day's events, and they had moved the swim from Lake Erie to the bay of Lake Erie, which was still pretty choppy, Mikula said.

"I saw the Coast Guard picking a few swimmers out of the water as they were getting thrown about pretty good," he said. "Thankfully I have a good background in swimming so I was able to muscle through it."

Then he took off on a 112-mile tour of Ohio's Erie County on bike, followed by a 26.2-mile run (a marathon).

"The bike put us up against 15-20 mph winds with gusts in the 30s," he said. "That proved a challenge and really tested our mettle out on the course."

He finished the140.6-mile day at 11 hours and 13 minutes, good for second place in the category of 45- to 49-year-old men and 14th overall for the full ultra-distance event.

At the finish, his five children joined him in his run to the finish line. "They ran down the chute,'' he said. By the end of the event, he was ready to celebrate with his family – and to eat a cheeseburger because, as he put it, the intense training "was a giant lifestyle change."

The event allowed his kids to enjoy the roller coasters and attractions at the Cedar Point amusement park. "It was a family race-cation," Mikula said. During the previous months, he said his family was great about his training.

Mikula's students are more accustomed to seeing him wear one of his 48 bow ties while he's teaching 10th-grade honors literature, 12th-grade British literature and video production at Lower Dauphin. "They thought it was interesting," he said. "Usually kids were taken aback by the training and the event itself."

He hopes that his accomplishments can help students realize their potential and teach them about setting and meeting goals.
When it comes to goals, Mikula knows what is next. "I am doing the Philly marathon in November," he said. "My goal is to qualify for Boston."

Setting and achieving goals takes something beyond meeting what people might expect from you, Mikula believes.

"I think that there is a certain expectation from people when I tell them that I am a triathlete," he said. "I think the assumption is that I am involved in some of the less intense, shorter distance races locally and that I do it just as a hobby and a way of staying fit. They are usually a bit surprised when I tell them that I raced at nationals and that my goal is not to complete, but compete for podium positions."

His response to their surprise:  "I usually just tell them not to let the bow tie fool them," he said.


Last Updated on Friday, 09 October 2015 14:07

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A chance to taste Tattered Flag beer


Want to taste a Tattered Flag beer?

Middletown residents have been curious about the brew that the four entrepreneurs who make up Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works will make since the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority agreed to lease the Elks Building to them in August.

Now you can taste the recipe.

Tattered Flag will present four of its beers at a tasting from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4 at Kuppy’s Diner.

The tasting, presented by the partners, diner and the Press And Journal, will be limited to 120 people age 21 and older. A $5 donation for a ticket will be given to the Furry Friends Network.

Kuppy’s will provide light brunch fare that will be partnered with three of the beers. Seating times will be assigned on a first-come basis.

Tattered Flag is still renovating the Elks, and hopes to open in early March, about two months later than the four partners originally had planned. Work on the old building has provided “lots of challenges – lots of surprises’’ that account for the delay, said Matt Fritz, one of the partners.

But Tattered Flag has brewed beer at a home location, and presented samples at a recent beer festival in Lititz.

The beers that will be presented at Kuppy’s for tasting are:
• an IPA, which is a pale ale
• an amber beer
• a coffee stout

The partners have enlisted brewer Tony Schneider, who has brewed beer for Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg, to their team. “He’s got a great track record,’’ Fritz said.

Schneider will be joined by Dave Morrow, a home brewer for about 10 years who has served his beer at weddings, parties and other private events, Fritz said.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 16:06

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Starlets? Star Barn-esque buildings in Lower Swatara to move

haybarn9 30 15WEBSubmitted photos -- The Bryncoed Farm hay barn, with its louvered star, could be moved from Lower Swatara Twp. to Lancaster County.

Two Lower Swatara Twp. farm buildings featuring the familiar architectural flair of a louvered star will be moved and restored with the Star Barn complex in its new home in West Donegal Twp.

DAS Companies, owner of the famous John Motter Star Barn in Lower Swatara Twp., recently dismantled two farm buildings from elsewhere in the township that will join the barn when it is moved to a new location near Elizabethtown, according to Michael Kleinhans, a company spokesman.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 September 2015 15:34

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