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Purdue Univ Band Drum Majors Include 1st BlackBreaking with tradition as it closes in on its 125th anniversary, the Purdue University “All-American” Marching Band will have three drum majors for its 2010-11 season, including the first African-American.

Cherrie Lemon, an African-American Purdue sophomoe from St. Liouis, Missiouri, joins returning drum major, Rich Marzullo, a junior from Stamford, Connecticut and Aurie Swartz, a sophomore from Charlestown, Indiana. The three were selected April 30th in tryouts at the band’s drill field.

During its long history, the band has traditionally been led by two drum majors. Band Director Jay Gephart cited exceptionally stiff competition as the reason for the expansion.

Lemon is the first African-American and the sixth woman to hold the post of Drum Major in nearly 125 years of the band’s history. Until 1973, men made up the entire band because of the program’s ties to the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Before that date, women only performed with the band as majorettes. The first woman to be selected drum major was Fort Wayne native Anne Woods in 1991-92, followed by Danville native Cathy Tuttle in 1993-94.

Stephanie Swierczek, from Aurora, Ill., helped lead the band for two years, 2001-02 and 2002-03; Danielle Donovan, of Dwight, Ill., was a drum major in 2003-04; and Melissa Linker helped lead in 2005-06.

Lemon, Marzullo and Swartz will lead the band when it participates in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November and will help the band department kick off the celebration of its 125th year of music on campus in 2011.