Kevin Goodnight’s rise as the “super trumpet” in WKU’s pep band began just as his solo goes at the last media timeout of most men’s basketball games — an improv of the planned act.
Goodnight arrived late to a game at Diddle Arena during the spring of 2005 and entered through the tunnel opposite where the pep band was already playing. But instead of quietly joining the rest of the band’s trumpet players, he blasted into song across the arena.
“I came in and started playing and working my way around,” Goodnight said. “The crowd went crazy, and ever since then I’ve done it.”
Goodnight, now 24 years old and a sixth-year senior majoring in instrumental music education, has made a tradition out of his solo from the 1970 song “Vehicle” by The Ides of March.
“If we’re down a couple points, four or five minutes left, the crowd is hurting and just sitting there — I go and play that song, and the crowd just erupts,” Goodnight said. “It erupts with madness.”
The solo has become a pep band tradition to the point that “Vehicle” is known as “Goodnight’s Song,” said Lamar Moore, Hopkinsville senior, a tuba player in the pep band.
Moore said much of what makes the solo special is that by performing it from the stands, Goodnight brings the crowd closer to the band, both figuratively and literally.
“He improvs over the solo,” Moore said. “He makes it funny. You can hear it in his playing.”
Goodnight said he doesn’t have a favorite spot in Diddle Arena to perform the solo. But once he settles on a section at each game, he acts as “ignorant” as he can to get nearby fans to have fun.
He said nerves aren’t a problem, even when it comes to playing in front of thousands of people. Goodnight has been involved in band and singing in choir for about 15 years and said the solo is second nature.
“I try to play as loud as I can, so I do simple improving things to it — not much — just so I can play it loud,” he said.
The late-game push for energy in the stands has produced positive results on the court. Before this season, when WKU started 0-4 in the Sun Belt Conference for the first time ever, the Toppers hadn’t lost more than four home games in a season since Goodnight started playing “Vehicle.”
WKU fan Cody Sparks, a senior from Beaver Dam, said this season he’s started to appreciate Goodnight’s solo more. Sparks said he tries to make it to every WKU home game, and he sits in or near the front row of the student section.
“Getting excitement in Diddle right now is hard to come by, so as much as we can get it, it helps,” Sparks said.
Part of the full Goodnight experience is finding the heavy-set trumpet player and his can’t-miss afro in the upper sections of Diddle Arena, Sparks said.
“If we look over at the band and don’t see him, we know he’s somewhere above,” Sparks said. “It’s kind of cool to try to pinpoint him.”
Jeff Bright, associate director of bands, said he noticed Goodnight’s leadership potential during the summer of 2007, Bright’s first at WKU, when Goodnight came to see him in his office before he had even met the band.
Bright said that’s one of the reasons that when attention is put on one person rather than the band as a whole — such as Goodnight’s solo — he sees no problem with it.
“Kevin was just very interested,” Bright said. “I think there are certain individuals who have an investment in the ensemble, and so they want it to be successful. He’s certainly one of those students.”
As Goodnight finishes up his undergraduate degree at WKU, he has been student teaching music at Butler County High School for course credit and working at the Walmart deli to pay the bills.
He plans to graduate in May, and he said the rumor is that the pep band will retire “Vehicle” at that point. But the Bowling Green native and Warren East High School graduate might not be done as a WKU student just yet.
Goodnight is deciding between a master’s degree in either education or conducting and looking for a job. He’ll take whichever comes first and said two more seasons with the pep band — and “Vehicle” — would be in order were he to continue his education at WKU.
“I think a couple other people have tried to play it, but they’re not that heard,” Goodnight said. “I can fill up that room with sounds.”