EHS drumline punishment reversed, set to play next season

Update, as of November 12: 

East Penn School District superintendent Kristen Campbell reported the restoration of the Emmaus High School drumline’s performances at football games during yesterday’s school board meeting, sequential to their controversial ban from playing for the student section. 

After EHS band director and teacher Ryan Harrington decided to terminate the drumline’s popular appearances at football games, a major backlash erupted from the East Penn community due to coverage from The Stinger, The Morning Call, WFMZ, 99.9 The Hawk, and a variety of local media sources.

Members of the EHS drumline look forward to performing for the student section next season. 


Following their viral performance at last Friday’s Freedom football game, Emmaus High School’s drumline is not permitted to play for the student section next season.

The removal of their appearances resulted when drumline, without asking permission of their advisors, performed a beat during Friday’s white-out game after placing baby powder on the drums for a crowd-pleasing visual effect. A video posted to @emmaus.drumline on Instagram was eventually reposted by the BarStool Sports’ Twitter account that following Sunday. The BarStool repost garnered nearly 114,000 views in just three days. 

Drumline, a subset of the EHS marching band, makes a routine appearance at the football games and performs beats in front of the student section. The team of 10 student percussionists strives to increase team spirit for EHS and the football team during their performances. This team building often includes zany, unconventional acts such as performing sextuplets upside down, or playing the beat to “Shots” by LMFAO feat. Lil Jon.

Junior Luke Wilson, a veteran member of drumline, expresses another one of the drumline’s purposes: to maximize student engagement during football games. 

“[We want to provide] something that they can enjoy while staying in the stands,” Wilson said. “Some kids leave at halftime, and a lot of our performances happen around halftime or afterwards, so it’s a good way to keep the students there until the end of the game.”

Their Instagram and Twitter accounts, both independent from the band’s social media, provide a platform to showcase many of their performances to a wider audience than just the EHS students present at football games. The accounts are denoted simply as @emmaus.drumline on Instagram and @emmausdrumline on Twitter, collectively gaining over 400 followers. 

However, once both accounts posted the video last Friday featuring junior drumline member Diangelo Tyner playing baby powder-coated bass drums to the tune of “Jig 2,” along with cheerleaders and students gleefully chanting in the background, popular sports blog BarStool Sports quickly noticed the video. 

“[BarStool] contacted us and said, ‘Hey, we want to post this,’ and I got that feeling of, ‘what just happened?’” Wilson said. “We couldn’t say no. And especially [since] we’re trying to really get school spirit up in here, with the Spirit Week and the Red Ribbon Week, it was just awesome. The administration, and the EPSD Twitter reposted that, and it seems to have gotten a really positive response.”

Band teacher and marching band director Ryan Harrington, however, was not pleased with the act. Disappointed with the students, he concluded that the drumline cease playing for the student section until 2021. 

Harrington cites damage to the band uniforms, drums, and an apology to the FHS athletic director for a baby powder-covered track as the reasons behind the temporary ban. Along with this, he worries the drumline will try more eccentric performances in the future due to the positive responses of the most recent performance.

“The feeling [and fear] is that they want to one-up that, and then one-up that, and soon we have animals bouncing around,” Harrington said. 

Although drumline members stated they occasionally ask permission for their unique performances, Wilson recalls that the percussionists typically “take the judgement into [their] own hands” for other acts. 

In light of the ban, EHS students had varied reactions, although most more negative than positive. Senior varsity cheerleader Taitum Mason felt disheartened upon hearing the news. As a cheerleader, she helps bring attention to the drumline by dancing and chanting with other cheerleaders to the drumlines’ beats on the sidelines.

“I think [the drumline players] add something to the football games that we haven’t had for awhile, and I just think they make everybody excited,” Mason said. “People have started coming to the games to watch [them].”

Other EHS students shared similar reactions on Instagram, commenting their grievances on @emmaus.drumline’s most recent post—the video clip which was featured on BarStool’s Twitter.

Commonly making an appearance in the student section, senior Brody Pavelko also expresses his distaste with the decision. 

“I think they should still play because it does hype up the student section,” Pavelko said. “And if they’re not allowed to play just because of the powder, then just ban the powder and not the drumline.”

Despite the situation, Wilson, alongside his band members, respect Harrington’s authority in his decision, although disappointed that they will be graduates by the time drumline will make another student section appearance. 

“It’s Mr. Harrington’s classroom, and he runs it how he sees fit, so if that’s what he deems a punishment, then we’ll accept that because he’s our teacher,” Wilson said.

26 thoughts on “EHS drumline punishment reversed, set to play next season

  • November 6, 2019 at 2:36 pm
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    Christ — they’re really mad about this? Let these kids have some damn fun.

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    • November 7, 2019 at 4:12 pm
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      Oh no….not baby powder dust on the field! How will they ever get it clean? Gimme a break. Don’t let em’ dull your shine kids.

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    • November 8, 2019 at 8:50 am
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      Amen to that!!!! Totally agree!!!!

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    • November 10, 2019 at 10:21 am
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      Are you kidding me??? Ban the powder not the drum Line!!!!

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  • November 7, 2019 at 10:53 am
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    Seems pretty silly to punish them for this.

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  • November 7, 2019 at 11:22 am
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    The Riot Squads @ FREEDOM VS LIBERTY had baby powder. Nothing was said. Give it a break EHS it’s not that bad

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  • November 7, 2019 at 2:33 pm
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    I don’t think that they should be punished at least there not out there doing drugs or drinking what the heck I thought it was brilliant for being a whitout

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  • November 7, 2019 at 2:46 pm
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    Emmaus high school and it’s community has enough problems to begin with… and in a rare moment when students are trying to create and spread more positivity and school spirit, they are punished because of the use of baby powder?! As a former student, we used to bring tons of stuff to games… silly string, glitter, paint, props… you name it. Stadiums would be covered in it all by the time the game was over. Baby powder is harmless and washes away. You don’t like the use of baby powder? Tell the students they can’t use it anymore and MOVE ON. A drumline is a staple part of high school football games and has been for decades! Now you’re just messing with history and punishing the whole student body because of your accusations.

    Sad, Emmaus. Sad.

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    • November 8, 2019 at 3:33 pm
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      Right on brother, or sister, if that’ the case.

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    • November 8, 2019 at 4:36 pm
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      Agreed. This is ridiculous. Sensoring their freedom of expression. Horrible.

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    • November 9, 2019 at 9:20 am
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      Give me a break. I thought it was great. Worry about the bad things that happen at school that do not get attention.

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  • November 7, 2019 at 3:41 pm
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    Make them pay to dry clean the uniforms, refurbish the drums, & clean up the track… then let them wear coordinating black pants & shirts (turtlenecks or t-shirts) in the future. Keep it simple, don’t disrupt their spirit section, & establish some logical rules. Drumming isn’t a performance for life…only a mere 3 – 4 years of their lives! It’s not pro sports or the NFL. But granted, they should have asked their director if they could use the baby powder before they did it!

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  • November 8, 2019 at 7:05 am
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    Wow. I respect the men who made this decision as a person but I think their decision is completely overkill and harms the potential for new drummers to find themselves during the entire 2020 season. Poor choice. Let the punishment fit the crime, not discourage them and hinder their creativity to the extent of this level. Highschool students already struggle fighting against drugs, alcohol, violence, and bullying. Taking away an entire season gives them no reason to stay involved next year. Disappointed.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 7:36 am
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    Drumline is all about the beat and VISUALS! I know, I was captain of my high school drumline. We never lost a competition in the 4 years I was there and not for about 15 years before I got there. The kids were having fun. It rained like the dickens last night, what didn’t blow away, washed away. This is a non-starter. EHS you are SOOOOOO wrong if you punish the kids for this. Was it a bright move? As an adult now, probably not. If I were still on the drumline and one of my drummers said “Hey, I’ve got an idea…” as a high school kid I would have said “That’s freaking amazing!” Let it go, it was a little bit of baby powder, it wasn’t cocaine. Sheesh. Let’s let kids be kids while they are kids. Once you are an adult, there’s no turning back.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 8:46 am
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    Seriously….I can’t believe that there was this much of a problem. I think that is amazing that these kids went through all that just for school spirit. It is awesome that they want to energize the crowd and actually have people wanting to go to more games. So maybe they should have asked first, but don’t punish them for trying to be engaging. With everything else going on in this world, why not let them have a little fun…just let them know they have to clean it up afterwards…I mean..it’s not like it was paint or anything.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 9:15 am
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    fire the band director – obviously can’t have any fun in band

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  • November 8, 2019 at 12:49 pm
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    That was an awesome idea!!! Is this worse than people’s garbage laying all over the stadium from food and drinks. Come on man!!

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  • November 8, 2019 at 2:29 pm
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    Can you say “overkill”?? Why would you punish not only the drumline, but the entire student body over baby powder? I’m an Emmaus graduate and we didn’t have a drumline when I went to football games. We cheered along with the cheerleaders . . . but that was another time. We would’ve LOVED a drumline . . . They’re looking for ways to boost school spirit and this was HARMLESS. But, if you don’t like it, ban (oh my god, the horror) baby powder. You’re throwing out the baby with the bath water. Maybe this will encourage the kids to go elsewhere at half time and do drugs or drink. Way to go Emmaus. I’m ashamed that my alma mater has such little foresight and compassion. Wake up!

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  • November 8, 2019 at 3:42 pm
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    The Band should boycott the games. Just don’t show up Reach this teacher a lesson. I think the teacher should give up the position and let the kids have fun it’s High School for sakes.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 3:57 pm
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    Time for the percussionists involved to sit out the rest of the year in ALL performances as per Harrington’s order…this of course would include all percussionists performances in concerts etc for the rest of the year. Let’s hear how great the band and orchestra performances sound with out ample percussion influence……Mr. Harrington & his superiors should be real proud of his assinine decision………

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  • November 8, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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    If it was so bad why wasn’t it stopped? Where was the director? I heard that he was the videographer. It’s ridiculous to punish them for this. Harrington: “soon we have animals bouncing around,”
    Really? Isn’t that a bit extreme? They’re kids,……children having fun. I know this will probably never happen and it would probably only hurt the chances of advancement to a college marching band but you guys in the band need to stick together on this. No drumline, no marching band. Quit.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 6:48 pm
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    I’m an “old guy” from Pennsylvania and a former resident of the Emmaus area who was a part of champion drum lines in the early and mid 80’s that traveled just about everywhere, and I remember the sheer joy of bringing a stadium of people to its feet with something new and surprising and creative and impetuous. Directors and staff applauded this type of thing and doubled down and pushed us for even more. As another person who responded to this news article quite correctly noted: the period of time for any of these kids where it is possible to make or enjoy this type of impact is short and fleeting.

    Ryan Harrington has robbed these young people – both the performers and the listeners / watchers – of that joy. Shame on you Mr. Harrington, and shame on your priorities. I don’t know you, and I don’t care to know you, but you’ve done a very small and damaging thing here in prioritizing the tyranny of decorum over the obvious and wonderful freedom that comes through creativity.

    For a Heaven’s sake, Ryan Harrington, you are a band director, and one would think you are a creative type due to that chosen profession. Is this somehow a flexing of your muscles to show that you are somehow “in control” of these kids? Or is it something else even darker? I think you need to sit and think deeply on where this type of decision and action comes from and how it reflects on you and your program – because this way of thinking and acting will continue to haunt you and your reputation and your career in the future if you don’t turn it around. Remember who you are there for – the kids (NOT you).

    The greatest leader is the greatest server. He / she facilitates learning and creativity in others, is a window to their dreams and possibilities and brings out the best in them. That leader makes himself / herself small so others can be in the light, experience growth and fulfillment and become champions in their own abilities. You, sir, have done none of that in this situation. You deserve the sentence of an empty band room, devoid of the young souls who you are supposedly there for.

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  • November 8, 2019 at 8:52 pm
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    This is just insane. If there was to be a punishment it should be to just clean up after the incident. I pray your students support each other and do a walkout of the band program.

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  • November 9, 2019 at 11:57 am
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    I think the whole band should refuse to play. The students broke zero rules and are being punished. Punish back. Band directors need bands inn order to keep their jobs.

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  • November 10, 2019 at 10:17 am
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    Really?!! The last game of the season and last time many get to perform in front of an enthusiastic crowd and they get punished for a 30 second display of spirit.
    Damage to the track? Gatorade, coffee, rain, ice and snow fall on it every year, but baby powder is going to cause damage?
    Damage to the drums? Does the band play in the rain? Does it play in heat and cold? How is powder going to damage the drums? The drum head? The rim? The shell? The Lugs? Don’t the drumline members clean them when they check them after a performance?
    Damage the uniforms? It’s the end of band season, don’t the uniforms get cleaned anyway? After 3+ months, they could be pretty ripe.
    I was a band parent for 8 years, High School and College. I saw many stupid things happen during those years. But when they happened, we addressed the individuals involved, not an entire section.
    I can only hope that the school board will overrule Mr Harrington’s over reaction and not discourage the students from showing their creativity and school spirit.
    Go Hornets!

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  • November 10, 2019 at 7:25 pm
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    In 2019 when you have hundreds of kids dying from heroin overdoses and suicides bc of bullying an administration which should be PROUD of their students are punishing an artistic outpouring of school spirit and inclusivity.

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