If you’re looking to get cuffed in college, join the Penn Band. Entrance into this tight–knit community on campus will almost surely guarantee you a husband or wife upon graduation, based on strong historical evidence.
Penn professor Kushol Gupta (C ‘97) is only one of the many alumni that can credit the Penn Band for introducing him to his wife, Meryl (C ‘97). The two met in October of 1993 when Kushol joined the band as a freshman, but their first official date wasn’t until they were set up not–so–blindly for Hill College House’s Screw Your Roommate Dance. “It was around Valentine’s Day,” Kushol remembers. “You would set your roommate up with someone else, so it was kind of a lottery. And then, yeah, after that there were more dates, more movies, and we became a couple that semester.”
Kushol and Meryl continued dating throughout their four years together on the band. He proposed to her at their special spot in Hill—the fifth floor lounge—when they were in their first year of graduate school, but says that it’s not uncommon for the Penn Band to be incorporated into proposals between band members. One memorable example was Josiah Neiderbach’s (C ‘06) proposal to former Penn Band President Lisa Fiorenzo (C’ 07) during Homecoming 2011. “On Homecoming, the band usually storms through Upper Quadrangle and plays,” Kushol says, “so Josiah had planned it so that he would be there when they did their ritual tour through the Quadrangle. He dropped the knee and proposed with the band right there.”
Proposals of this kind extend all the way back to 1986, when Keith Funger (W ‘81) proposed to fellow band member Carole Bergman by having the Penn Band spell out, “Carole, will you marry me?” across Franklin Field during their football halftime show. Kushol says he could go on and on listing the names of couples that formed in the Penn Band, but isn’t surprised that it’s a fairly common occurrence. “You were with band members so often,” he says. “With rehearsals, performances, traveling together...it became your family.”
For further proof of this phenomenon, look no further than the Palusci family. Vince (C ‘80) and Roslyn (C ‘80) met in the Penn Band when they were freshmen in 1976. They, of course, got married and had two kids—John (C' 09) and Katherine (W' 11)—who both attended Penn and joined the band, as well. While Katherine (Katie) had a long–distance boyfriend from high school when entering college, John followed in the footsteps of his parents and met his own wife, Meredith (C' 09), in the Penn Band.
Roslyn and Vince met on freshman move–in day in 1976 when Roslyn’s mom was “looking for someone to help carry my stereo,” she says. Roslyn had not initially planned on joining the band, but Vince convinced her to attend an information meeting and she joined the group for a trip to Dartmouth the following weekend. “I always tell people that after 11 hours on the bus together, you might as well get married. We were not the only couple to get married from that trip.”
Vince and Roslyn recounted many memories from their time together on the band, from playing at Penn’s only NCAA Final Four appearance in 1979 to riding in the back of band director Greer Cheeseman’s “two–seater hatchback” from Philadelphia to Indianapolis for an earlier NCAA tournament game that same year.
Meanwhile, their son John remembers loving being a drum major during his senior year. John admits that there was a bit of a generational difference between his experience on the band compared with his parents. Noting that the halftime shows were, as they are today, produced by the students, the “off–color” content that his father produced “would never fly today,” he says. “Me and Katherine would always hear about the “Golden Age” of band. You know, like, drinking on the bus, crazy shows, all those kinds of things, while we had much tighter guidelines to work with.”
One truth that several Penn Band alumni pointed to was that the band’s closeness stemmed from its ability to pull a wide variety of people together through a common bond. “There were a lot of different personalities in the band, but they all had the commonality of being a musician,” Vince said. “You had the Whartonites, and the crazy engineers, the liberal artsy–type people...I was, at that point, a chemistry major and my wife was a psychology major. But music was the thread among us.”
The musical bond is evidently wide–reaching, as well as multi–generational. Kushol, who is currently assistant director of the band, and the Palusci family are all still in contact with the lifelong friends they made during their four years performing. Kushol also mentions that they will sometimes come into contact with former band members’ kids at Penn’s summer band camp, which shows how much staying power the organization really has over the years.
So, what’s the real reason for all of these Penn band couples and long–lasting friendships? The mutual support was definitely a factor, says Vince. “There were people going through life crises in college, and the band helped them along,” he says. “The band was the support. People really took care of each other.”