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Lake Land College student Ross Lynch, a saxophone player, is pictured Friday afternoon at Dvorak Concert Hall prior to a practice with his fellow members of the Eastern Illinois University marching band.

ROB STROUD, JOURNAL GAZETTE & TIMES-COURIER

MATTOON -- There are three Lakers among the Panthers this fall in the Eastern Illinois University marching band and color guard.

Saxophone player Ross Lynch of Pana is utilizing a program that enables Lake Land students to participate in Eastern’s marching band. He has joined the Panther ranks alongside his fellow Lakers -- color guard members Sarah Goings and Kathrine Gosnell, both of Mattoon.

Lynch, a 19-year-old sophomore recreation major, said he enjoyed playing in his high school band but had thought that he would need to give up this pursuit after he enrolled at Lake Land, which does not have a band program.

During his freshman year, Lynch found out about an opportunity for students at Lake Land in Mattoon to join the band at Eastern in nearby Charleston. Lynch said he gladly took this opportunity and has found the Panthers to be welcoming to Lakers.

The saxophone player said he has had fun challenging his musical abilities in a university level band and playing in the First Night pep rally performance on Eastern’s campus at the beginning of the fall semester.

“The atmosphere was like a football game. There were so many people there. It was nice to get out there and perform again,” Lynch said, adding that he looks forward to playing at EIU football games this fall.

Panthers Marching Band Director Ben Druffel said students who enjoyed being in their high school bands typically want to continue having an outlet for their musical abilities in college. He said EIU’s band draws students from 27 majors who are seeking this outlet.

Druffel said the Panthers are glad to offer this opportunity to Lakers, who can inquire each spring about registering for the band as non-reticulating students at EIU. He said this ongoing program also helps promote EIU to potential transfer students from Lake Land.

“That gives us more people and a bigger sound and more people to be involved in the social aspect,” Druffel said, adding that they have 89 band and color guard members this fall. He said the Panthers will perform at EIU’s first home football game of the season at 2 p.m. Friday, during Family Weekend, following their pregame concert at 12:45 p.m. at Booth Library.

Lake Land Student Life Director Valerie Lynch said the college plans to add the EIU band program to the list of extracurricular and social opportunities that it promotes to prospective students.

Valerie Lynch, mother of saxophone player Ross Lynch, said the EIU band program provides an outlet for student musicians who are attending Lake Land. She noted that EIU’s band recently recorded Lake Land’s new school song, which will debut during the Laker homecoming kickoff pep rally at 11 a.m. Sept. 27 in the Field House.

Gosnell, a 19-year-old sophomore history major, said she joined Eastern’s color guard last year at the suggestion of her Mattoon High School color guard coach, Allison Christian, who also coaches EIU’s team.

As a member of the EIU color guard, Gosnell said she has enjoyed performing at Panther sporting events and marching in the homecoming parade. She said her EIU teammates have not treated her differently than any other member of the color guard.

“They don’t really care where you come from, just that you do your part to make the band great,” Gosnell said.

Goings, an 18-year-old freshman early childhood education major, also said that her EIU teammates have been welcoming. Goings said she has found that her EIU teammates are highly motivated to do their best on the color guard.

“Everyone wants to be there, so it makes it more enjoyable to be around them,” Goings said.

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