Jonae Allen’s band director asked her at band practice last week if she knew how to play the flute, to which she answered with a very confused “no.”
He then asked if she wanted to learn how to play for a special performance, and that’s when she knew something was up, she said.
“He was like, ’Do you have any plans because you might want to make arrangements?’” Allen, a sophomore engineering major said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll make arrangements.’”
On Sunday, Allen and seven other members of Temple’s Diamond Marching Band performed with Young Thug, Gunna, and Wheezy on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in New York City. The eight students provided the live backtrack to Young Thug’s song “Hot” featuring Gunna.
“This was just such a random thing,” Allen said. “It was just selective people, and I think for representation purposes, they were looking for people of color.”
Four students were chosen to play flute, and four others were chosen to play trumpet, said Gabriel Custodio, a sophomore neuroscience major.
Custodio, who normally plays the clarinet, also learned how to play the flute with the help of his friend and fellow performer Delyah Fleury before the performance.
While Fleury, a sophomore neuroscience major, already knew how to play the flute, she said she did not know why she was selected.
“Everything was so quick we didn’t have sheet music, so I just decided to go listen to the song and teach myself what I heard,” Fleury said. “As we were practicing I helped the people who don’t normally play [the flute] finger the notes so that they could learn the song.”
Custodio received an email from Matthew Brunner, assistant professor of instrumental music and Temple Diamond Marching Band’s band director, confirming he was one of the eight students chosen to go and immediately asked a coworker to cover his Sunday night shift as a Resident Assistant at Hardwick Hall.
“I was like ‘Wow, here I am going to Jimmy Fallon,” Custodio said.
Allen said that the students were not informed why their band was chosen for the performance, but speculated it was associated with The Roots, Fallon’s band in residence, who are from Philadelphia.
While performing on stage at the NBC Studios, the eight students formed a semi-circle around Gunna first, then Young Thug, as the two artists laid down verses in accompaniment to a flute riff and trumpet blasts.
Wheezy, the song’s producer who created its beat, also made an appearance on stage, wearing a red and white band uniform that matched the Diamond Band’s uniforms.
The band members met with all three artists before the show to prepare, Custodio said.
Brunner traveled with the performers and reminded them to try and stay calm before the performance in spite of all the big names present at The Tonight Show, Custodio added.
“When [Young Thug and Gunna] first rolled up to the set, I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re right there,’ but they kept it very casual, and we kept it as casual as we could,” Custodio said.
The episode also featured appearances from actors Kate Beckinsale and Alec Baldwin.
While seeing celebrities in person instead of on TV was surreal, Fleury was less star-struck by their presence than she thought she might be.
“My perspective of celebrities in general has changed,” she added. “I wasn’t afraid to talk to Young Thug and Gunna, they were just people. So it was cool, but it’s their job. [For] people who work there, performance is all business.”
The performance was a “cool experience,” Custodio said, adding that he sees it as a part of the many opportunities he’s gotten through Temple Bands.
“If I wasn’t in band, I wouldn’t have been able to have an experience like this,” Custodio added. “It just makes me super grateful [that I’m] able to do something I love, which is performing music with people who also love to perform music.”