For Ethan and Eli Ernst, their love of marching band began at Concordia. At the persuasion of Dianne Moellering, retired CLHS band director, the two joined up.
“At first I was incredibly uneasy and shy about joining, as I was afraid of making mistakes among the older members, but I soon discovered I felt more comfortable around the drumline members then I did around classmates from middle school,” Eli said. “It was a very welcoming environment that helped strengthen my faith and fellowship to make lasting friendships I maintain to this day.”
After four years on the Marching Cadets, multiple trips to state and one first-place finish for the family, Ethan, a 2015 CLHS graduate, and Eli, a 2018 graduate, continued their love of marching at Purdue University.
“I decided to join the marching band here after I saw how much fun everyone had my freshman year,” Ethan said. “The marching band here is full of traditions that date back over 100 years ago, and it felt like a shame to not be involved.”
Together this year at the university and on the band, Ethan plays trumpet, and Eli plays percussions on the “World’s Largest Drum,” a coveted position among the band.
“I had to know every detail and fact about the drum, including the weight of the drum and how the drum was made,” Eli said. “The size of the drum is a trade secret, but I can assure you that it is the largest drum in the world.”
For Ethan, along with the stiff competition (he was one of 67 out of more than 90 who auditioned for trumpet to be selected last year), joining the Purdue band took many hours of preparation, learning eight to nine pieces of music and practicing 12 hours per day during camp. For Ethan, uniquely, it was about being in shape.
“A few months before band camp and after I had made my decision to try out for the Drum Crew, I looked up the criteria that I would need to follow to make the crew,” he said. “Not to my surprise, there was an intense process that I would have to prepare for in order to make the crew.”
Not only did he have to be good at drums, but he had to prove that he could run a mile and a half in under 11 minutes, a 100-meter sprint in under 13 seconds, a 400-meter dash in under a 1 minute and 15 seconds, 49 pushups in under two minutes, and 59 sit-ups in under two minutes. He also had to learn the history of the drum and take part in a public relations test to best know how to promote the university and the band program.
But for the boys, the work has definitely paid off.
“My favorite part of being in the band at Purdue has been the number of opportunities they have provided,” Ethan said. “We went to Ireland last spring for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Foster Farms bowl with the football team last winter, the Indy 500 every year, and the Lafayette Christmas parade every year. The directors are always looking for new, fun ways to be involved with the world and that has been my favorite part of with the Purdue All American Marching Band.”
For Ethan and Eli, it was also a unique experience to follow in their parent’s footsteps at Purdue — their father, Dan, a member of the marching band and their mother, Margo, a member of the Purdue band.
“I think it’s great. It has been a tremendous life experience for them both, learning many lessons including time management, teamwork, persistence and have built friendships along the way,” Dan said.
With graduation on the horizon for Ethan this year, he plans to work locally in Fort Wayne in the field of supply chain, possibly at BAE or Shuttleworth. Eli is continuing his major in social studies education, and hopes to teach high school one day.
“We cannot hope to understand the plans God has for all of us, but if we commit ourselves entirely to him we will see that God has great things in store, and that he will use us to change the world for the better,” Eli said.