Rutgers drum line opens at Victoria’s Secret show


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Photo by Courtesy of Tim Smith |

The Rutgers University drum line was the opening act for Fall Out Boy and Taylor Swift at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show at the Armory in Manhattan.


The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion show is a preview for the company’s latest collection of lingerie and women’s apparel, featuring some of the world’s leading supermodels and entertainment acts.

This year’s show was no different, aside from the addition of one more musical act —the Rutgers University drum line.

The drum line opened for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last Wednesday at the Lexington Armory in Manhattan.

The opening act of this year’s show, titled “British Invasion,” featured 10 members of the drum line in makeup and dressed in the tall black hats and red coats of the Queen’s Guard.

Paul Nalesnick, lead instructor of the drum line, said he could not believe how much thought goes into the production of the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, including collaborating with executive directors and producers who have worked on Academy Awards and Super Bowls.

“Literally opening for the show  was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Nalesnik, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior.

Tim Smith, director of Athletic Bands, said eight years ago, the Rutgers drum line did a very limited appearance in the same show. There, he met an assistant who now works as one of the lead production assistants.

“He called me back in August and wanted to know if the drum line would be interested in getting involved in the show again,” he said.

After Smith had several conversations with the artistic director of the show, who shared his vision for the drum line’s act, Smith and Nalesnik were asked to create a three-minute opening act for Fall Out Boy and Taylor Swift.

After selecting 15 of the best snare and bass players and practicing for about six weeks between band rehearsals and classes, the drum line went to the filming of the show, Smith said.

Nalesnik said the directors asked him to redesign the performance and adhere to certain requirements for filming and editing.

Kristin Lawton, the only female drummer at the show, said their routine had to be cut down significantly on the spot.

The drumline opened up for Fall Out Boy’s song, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up),” said Lawton, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student. The drumline originally rehearsed alongside the band, but that section ended up getting cut from the performance.

“I’m a pretty big Fall Out Boy fan, so that was awesome,” she said. “They performed right after us and their drummer actually wished me good luck before we went on, so I was really, really happy.”

Taylor Swift also told them they sounded good, Lawton said

Smith said their downstairs dressing room also served as the pathway for all of the models to walk from the makeup area to the elevator that led up to the stage. Several models took pictures with the drum line.

“It was amazing to see how excited all these top models and performers were to have our drum line part of the show — it was very surreal,” he said. “And of course a college boy wouldn’t be a college boy if he wasn’t raving about hanging out with supermodels for three days.”

Lawton said it was funny to see how star-struck the other band members were at the sight of models walking by.

Smith said the students felt both nervous and excited about performing in the show, because the situation was very different from their normal routines.

At a football game, they run out of a tunnel into a stadium of 50,000 fans but are positioned far away from them, he said. On this stage, they were under a bright spotlight and performing just feet from famous New York A-listers.

They received the star treatment, he said, with their own dressing area and styling team.

Lawton said after their performance, they stayed in the dressing room and watched the show from a screen.

“The $10 million bra was so pretty,” she said. “It’s crazy how they put so much money into one small garment. It’s like mind-blowing.”

Smith always hopes that when he takes his band to a show they will get the opportunity to work with excellent people who can teach them a new art form.

“To take us down some new avenue that we haven’t experience before, or turn them on to something, that is really amazing,” he said. “And that is absolutely what happened with the people that they worked with. They were just the best in the world.”

Smith said the show generated a high level of attention and excitement for the marching band, which helps the entire program.

Nalesnik hopes more people recognize the capability and reputation of the drum line and wants this to attract more recruits to the band.

“That’s what were really shooting for: to just get the best talent in New Jersey and have a really good time,” he said.


By Danielle Gonzalez

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