HUNTINGDON - It's sort of a cross between the TV shows "Friday Night Lights'' and "Glee,'' blending alternative rock music with the fancy footwork of half-time shows featuring great high school marching bands.
A dozen highly trained musicians make up Asphalt Orchestra, and they're coming to Juniata College Oct. 26 for part of the school's homecoming weekend festivities, said Chad Herzog, director of performing arts at the college.
The group, which formed in 2009 in New York City where Herzog first saw the band perform in front of Lincoln Center, acts like a mini-marching band. But it plays rock music such as songs by Frank Zappa, Yoko Ono and the Pixies, in addition to pieces group members have composed.
The band Asphalt Orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at Juniata College in Huntingdon.
Herzog is responsible for lining up the various singers, dancers, speakers and others who are a part of "Juniata Presents,'' the college's year-long cultural series of events for the students and the general public.
He first saw Asphalt Orchestra perform in December 2009 and wanted them to come to Huntingdon the following fall, but for various reasons, the group hasn't been able to come until this year.
"They've been on my radar for quite some time,'' Herzog said.
If you go
Who: Asphalt Orchestra
Where: Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts, Juniata College, Huntingdon
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26
Tickets: General admission, $20; senior citizens 65 and older and children 18 and under, $12; Juniata College students are admitted free with student ID. For tickets and more information, call 641-5849.
The group should appeal to people in central Pennsylvania, where high school and college football is popular, he said. Most people here have grown up listening to marching bands, Herzog said.
"There are strong roots for this kind of thing in the community,'' he said. "Just about every person you meet has been on a football team or has heard a marching band.''
The group will play twice at the college, once in the afternoon on campus in a type of "flash mob'' setting outdoors, then a second concert inside at the Rosenberger Auditorium.
When Asphalt Orchestra first formed, they only did outdoor performances, but then they realized for practical purposes as well as aesthetics, they should try to move their act indoors, said band member Jessica Schmitz, who plays piccolo.
"We wanted to have a quiet, more intimate environment,'' said Schmitz, noting also that winters in New York City can get very cold.
But the transition wasn't automatic. They worked with their choreographers to make the change from having an audience on four sides outdoors to only having an audience on one side inside a theater. The group has several choreographers they work with to help them master different movements to go along with their repertoires.
Their songs vary from original works to rock music but never the familiar marching band tunes like those written by John Phillips Sousa, although the band members are very well-versed in the classics, said Schmitz, who formed the band with fellow band member and saxophonist Ken Thomson.
A graduate herself of the Manhattan School of Music, she said several of the band members are alumni of some of the best known music schools in the country, including her alma mater and also the Juilliard School, the Eastman School at the University of Rochester and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Many of them are music teachers during the day who play in the band on a part-time basis.
The band is made of mostly saxophone players with the addition of a trumpet, a sousaphone, a piccolo and a percussion section. Band members travel mostly in the fall and spring for concerts outside of New York City, Schmitz said.
"We love doing the colleges because it lets us reconnect with the students,'' she said.