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Loyalty to Marching 97 Inspires Donations for London Trip

Bob Haines ’79 and Nadine Caputo ’82 hold a photo of the Marching 97 that includes them performing on the field in 1978. Haines was the drum major and Caputo was playing the piccolo in the first “H” that spells out L-E-H-I-G-H. Hanes, president, and Caputo, controller of Insaco, Inc., made a joint leadership gift to support the Marching 97’s trip to perform in the 2018 London New Year’s Day Parade. Photo by John Kish IV.

As with tradition, the Marching 97 will have a Meet and Greet after the first home football game of the season. Plan to attend the Meet and Greet at Rauch Fieldhouse after Lehigh plays Villanova on Saturday, September 2. Registration is required.

Lehigh University’s marching band is cloaked in tradition — quirky yet professional, talented without taking themselves too seriously, and projecting a spirit that is infectious. Perhaps the band’s character is what caught the attention of the London New Year’s Day Parade (LNYDP) committee, who sent delegates from England to Lehigh’s campus in November 2016 to personally invite the Marching 97 to perform in the famous event on January 1, 2018.

Daniel Beadle ’18, manager of the Marching 97, spoke on behalf of the band, “The Marching 97 has been to a lot of places. But now we get a chance to go overseas, which we’ve never done, and bring the sound and the spirit of Lehigh to a whole new audience.”

The Marching 97 expressed over-the-top excitement about playing in the parade, which bands cannot apply for, but must be invited to. Since news of the invitation reached campus, the Marching 97, supported by Lehigh University, has worked toward raising the funds needed for their upcoming trip, which includes educational activities, an alumni event, and a performance at a Gala concert. Though the $300,000 goal has not yet been met, generous gifts from supporters have been a significant force in helping the band raise funds.

Answering the Call

Upon hearing about the band’s invitation to London, many jumped at the opportunity to give back to an organization that has given them so much.

Robert Haines ’79 and Nadine Caputo ’82 made a substantial joint gift of $97,000. Both were members of the band as students — Haines played the saxophone for three years, was drum major in his senior year, and took up the sousaphone during his graduate year in the band. Caputo played the piccolo for three years as an undergraduate, and in her senior year became the first female band manager.

“We had a great time representing Lehigh. It was really wonderful,” said Caputo, controller, Insaco, Inc. She added that it gave her valuable experience in leadership and accountability, skills that carried into her professional life. “When you have that kind of commitment, you really do balance your work a lot better. It gave me a lot of good training.”

Haines, president, Insaco, Inc., reflected on the fun times that he had with the band, and reminisced on the sense of closeness that members shared. As an alumnus, he was first in line to order the Lehigh University alumni vanity license plate LU00097 when they were available in the mid-1980s. It is still his license plate today. 

“The band was a very tight group. Once band camp was over, we really felt as though we were part of the group and part of something special. If someone had tried to take my dink from me after that, they would be in for a fight,” he said, referencing the brown beanies worn by band members. “Once you are a member, you are always a member.”

Haines and Caputo have supported the Marching 97 and other Lehigh initiatives in the past as well. Haines sponsors the annual Lehigh Valley Science and Engineering Research Fair held on campus. Plus, together, they provided a leadership gift to help purchase new band uniforms for its members in 2012.

“We both had really great experiences with the band, so when we heard they were looking for funding for uniforms, we wanted to do something. We decided we’d give them a good boost,” Caputo said.

The London trip will provide another unique experience to the group, forging the type of relationships that keep alumni like Haines and Caputo involved even years after graduation. On a larger scale, performing in the London parade will attract attention to Lehigh’s unique marching band.

“I think exposure, especially to a great audience that’s never heard their music or seen their style, can lead to only positive things for the band. It’s a nice recognition of all their hard work. I feel they’ll be much more prideful in their organization and their contribution to the school,” Caputo said.

Haines agreed, referencing a phrase describing the Marching 97 first dubbed by a Harvard newspaper, “It is important that the world come to know the ‘finest band east of all points west’.”

As an undergraduate, Dwight Stein ’84 played alto saxophone in the Marching 97 for four years, and takes pride in having performed in 53 half-time shows with the band – more performances than any other member during his time at Lehigh, except for two. He generously contributed a total of $48,500 in support of the band’s trip to London – a gift of $500 towards each of the 97 members’ expenditures.

Recalling his experiences, Stein referenced the road trips to away-football games. He described six to eight hours of driving, filled with laughter, pit-stops at nearby band members’ family houses, and serenades to the toll collectors on the turnpike. One reason for his donation is to give the current band members experiences like the ones he fondly looks back on now.

“This is the ultimate road trip,” he said. “The trips with the entire band on the Bieber buses were good times. This is a New Year’s Parade, it’s a little different than the field show, but nevertheless it’s an opportunity for the Marching 97 to be out there.”

More than anything else, Stein supports the band because of the lasting connection that is formed among those in the Marching 97. It is a bond that he still feels to this day.

“You become a part of the 97 and it becomes a part of you. It’s our cause. I’m still part of the 97,” he said.

Carina Bonasera ’19