With all the controversy and divisiveness generated by the current wave of protests during the playing of the national anthem at football games, this story may come as a welcome relief to many of those who are following these events.
Last Saturday (Oct. 14) a Yale junior, Alex Galland, undoubtedly became the first person in the Yale University band, and perhaps one of the very few, if any, at any college, ever to serve as one of the musicians in playing the national anthem, then a few minutes later, on the same field, join the football team on which he is its punter and placekicker.
He not only played in Yale’s 32-0 win over Holy Cross, he had a key role in it.
Joseph Alex Galland, who prefers to be known as Alex, is a 200 pounder who stands 6-2, and comes from Bakersfield, Calif., where he played three sports (football, track, and soccer) at Liberty High School. His dad, Mitch Galland, played football, but not music, at the University of California Santa Barbara. He was a guard on the offensive line but was forced to give up the sport after suffering a pulmonary embolism in his sophomore year.
Although Alex must be pretty good on the trumpet, we have no statistics or evaluation of his ability in that area, except that he must be accomplished enough to be a member of a band which includes several students from the Yale School of Music.
In football, however, there are criteria to prove his abilities. He is currently fourth in the Ivy League in punting average at 40 yards per effort, while 13 of his 22 kicks have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. He has made 24 of 26 PATs and 3-of-5 field goal attempts.
Punting and kicking have always been his specialty. In his high school career he hit 44 of 47 PAT attempts and made four out of five from field goal range.
Galland is more than about trumpet and football. Last summer he interned as a mechanical engineer at Ken Small Industries in his hometown of Bakersfield.
“I helped design facilities for Hess Oil, and made 3D models of Hess’ future oilfield facilities and their various components. I had to comply with the laws of North Dakota, which is where they were being constructed at the time.”
During his first and second years in college, he played with the smaller band at Yale basketball and hockey games. The recent Holy Cross game in the historic Yale Bowl marked his musical debut at a football game, including his years at Liberty High School in Bakersfield.
“In high school, I had to quit the marching band once football started to conflict, so I never actually played the national anthem for a game that I also played in,” he pointed out.
Last year, at the prestigious Ivy League institution in New Haven, Conn., that he attends, Galland joined what is facetiously known as the Yale Precision Marching Band. “I missed music and this band is a lot of fun to be a part of,” he said.
Why shouldn’t it be fun? The YPMB does not really march and is hardly precision in appearance. It is what is known as a “scatter” or “scramble” band. It is a humorous, irreverent and often controversial group of accomplished musicians, each having the time of his or her life. Such bands are common in the Ivy League but perhaps the most notable of them is in his native California at Stanford University.
Supported his teammates and played the anthem
In the Yale Daily News, the student newspaper, Won Jung and Steven Rome wrote that a minority of Yale football players “kneeled during the anthem, while some of their teammates stood beside them in a show of support. The remainder of the team stood on the sideline at attention.” The writers pointed out that the football players “are supportive of one another’s beliefs and remain unified as a team.”
Galland did not want his teammates to think he wasn’t supporting them by playing the anthem with the band. Following the Holy Cross game, he explained to David Borges of the New Haven Register that he believes the point of any protest is “to get people talking. As long as they (protest) respectfully, I’m OK with it.”
Yale has been playing the game for 145 years and it is unlikely anyone ever did double duty as a musician and a football player for the Bulldogs until Alex came along.
On with the game
After playing the anthem “I handed my trumpet to David Gruskin, who is new to the band. That was actually the first time we met. Then I switched my attention from the trumpet to football.”
While the instrument remained in Gruskin’s care for safekeeping, its owner, Alex Gallard, was punting five times for a total of 201 yards against the Holy Cross Crusaders. His best kick went a very creditable 47 yards.
From placement, Galland was three for four in extra point attempts and his one field goal went 39-yards.
Played the trumpet in his football uniform
Of his time on the field playing in the band, he was pleased by the reaction from his fellow musicians. “I was wearing my football uniform while playing, and the other members of the band were all for it. I’ve become quite close with a lot of them, so they were pretty pumped that I got to play with them.”
Galland can be said to have made contributions on this occasion both with his trumpet and his toe. He will probably repeat his double duty in the remaining home games with Columbia, Brown, and archrival Harvard.
The latter should be unique because it is traditional for the Yale and Harvard bands to combine for the playing of the anthem, while at the same time forming the letters “Y” and “H” interlocking. If they do that this year, Alex could have the distinction of being the first person to perform with both the Yale and Harvard bands simultaneously, all the while in a football uniform.
Alex Galland can be proud to have a special rooting section that no other Yale football player ever achieved – his fellow members of the Yale Precision Marching Band.