By Becca Eis and Kassidy Hall | Echo
For over 30 years, Airband, originally held biannually, transitioned from solo acts on risers in the Hodson Dining Commons to choreographed group acts complete with a theme, lighting effects and song mash-ups.
Now faculty and staff at the school, once Taylor grads reflect on their time in Airband as students and others recall participation in more recent years.
Kassie Jahr, chemistry lab manager and chemical hygiene officer
While living on Second East Olson, Jahr was involved in Airband performances her freshman, sophomore and junior years. Themes included Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," "Joyful, Joyful" from "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" and a medley that involved teaching the Little Mermaid how to dance.
In 1995, Jahr got involved in Airband as a freshman because it seemed important to her wing, and she saw it as a way to build relationships, more specifically with the upperclassmen who seemed especially excited about it. Her favorite memory involved finishing her performance of "Joyful, Joyful" in 1996.
"You just performed, and you're out of breath, and the audience doesn't know what they're expecting, so they burst into applause and scream and you're just like 'Woah, we did it.'" Jahr said. "So I kind of remember that, that was big, getting through that without falling or making a fool of yourself in front of the whole school."
Jahr sees Airband as an opportunity for freshmen to get out of their comfort zone and have a stress outlet. Jahr also believes Airband is an important Taylor tradition because it is collaborative, resulting in the building and deepening of relationships on floor and wings.
Bill Heth, professor of biblical studies
Though Heth never was a Taylor student, that didn't stop him from participating in Airband.
In 2006, Heth joined Third South English and First Bergwall in their performance of a medley of songs by the '60s band, The Four Seasons. The group ended up winning that year and even had the unique opportunity to perform for the alumni council during their visit to Taylor a week or two later.
Heth's role in the performance involved him singing the lead part of "Walk Like a Man." Just like the students, Heth had to practice to learn the choreography.
"One of my favorite memories is I videotaped one of the students doing the dance moves and then I took it home and put on my VCR and played it over and over again so I could imitate it," Heth said. "I was not getting it initially, but I had it perfect by the end."
According to Heth, Airband has changed throughout the years. Many of the performances now involve songs that are unfamiliar to him, and he finds the choreography much more sophisticated.
Still, Airband remains a significant Taylor tradition. Heth appreciates Airband for its emphasis on floor unity and its show of talent and creativity.
"(Airband's) just enjoying one another's gifts," Heth said "It's a celebration of life, really, and people."
Josh Craton, Wengatz Hall director
This weekend, Craton will watch Airband for the 14th year in a row.
As an Upland native, Craton has seen every Airband performance since he was in the eighth grade. Now the hall director of Wengatz, he remembers participating in Airband for four consecutive years as a Taylor student.
His first time participating in the event was in the fall of 2009, when Craton was a college freshman.
"I lived in First West Wengatz," Craton said. "Some might say my class started the First-West dynasty of Airband. We did it with our sister wing my freshman year and did "Beauty and the Beast." The second year, we assumed we were going to be invited to do it with them again and they decided not to do it with us."
When Craton was a sophomore, First West Wengatz performed by themselves for the first time. Craton remembered his wing's performance being fueled by the competition with their sister wing and in the fall of 2010, their "Battle of the Boybands" performance was awarded second place.
In the fall of 2011, Craton was a junior and participated in his wing's Airband performance, this time under the theme of the "Revolution of Dance". The act won first place and was also voted the number one Airband act of all time by the alumni poll.
"They used to ask winners to perform at the half of a football game," Craton said. "We also did a youth conference and opened for the Barlow Girls."
As a part of Craton's senior year, his wing's theme was "Space Jam". For the second year in a row, First West won first place in Airband. Cindy McWhirt, formerly a card-swiper at the DC, was featured in their set as a referee.
As a long-time observer and participator of Airband, Craton has witnessed the event grow and change.
"There didn't always used to be two shows," Craton said. "But now it feels like the community has grown a lot. Not just Taylor students go, but faculty bring their kids and even a lot of townees who aren't connected to Taylor attend. It feels like a really fun, greater Upland community event."