The Orange Girl
Orange spirit with a baton
The Orange Girl—the Syracuse University Marching Band’s featured twirler—is a long and honored tradition at SU.
It began on September 27, 1947, when the all-male band took the field with a twirling drum majorette, Jessie Ann Harp (Griffing) ’48, at the Syracuse-Niagara football game. The band was dubbed “100 Men and a Girl,” a name that stuck until 1966, when the band was opened to female instrumentalists.
Since then, the Orange Girl has become a vital part of both the marching band and Syracuse University. In addition to appearing with the band, today’s Orange Girl, Meghan Sinisi ’17, often performs solo at basketball games and other events, and serves as an ambassador for the SU within the Central New York community. Keep up with her on the Orange Girl Facebook page.
Meet some of our featured twirlers in the slideshow below. Were you a twirler whose photo is missing? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Jessie A. Harp (Griffing) ’48
The first “Girl” of “100 Men and a Girl,” Jessie Harp made her debut on horseback at the Syracuse-Niagara football game on September 27, 1947.
Gloria (Miligi) Smith ’48
In 1947-48, the 100 Men and a Girl was actually two girls—Smith performed with her fire batons in halftime shows, alongside Jessie Harp.
Dorothy “Dottie” A. Grover (Bolton) ’53, G’70
Syracuse University’s second drum majorette, Dottie Grover became a national symbol. She appeared on the covers of Look and Calling All Girls magazines; together with the band, performed in the first-ever televised bowl game—the Orange Bowl of 1953; and was crowned the Inernational Sweetheart of Sigma Chi for 1950–52.
Alta M. Burg (Richardson) ’57
Alta Burg, the third “Girl,” led “106 Men” onto the field at the 1957 Cotton Bowl.
Janet Kay Smith (Dean) ’61
To kick off the band’s halftime shows, the announcer would say “Take it away, Janet Kay!” Smith would toss her baton over the goalpost, and the band would be off. She also had the honor of performing with the band at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1960, when Syracuse won the national championship.
Learn more about her and her bandmate and eventual husband, John Dean.
Judith A. Delp (Shidemantle) ’64
In 1962, Judy Delp became the first twirler to claim the title of “Orange Girl”—and just in time, since 1966 saw the band opened to female instrumentalists. The days of “100 Men and a Girl” were over.
Melaine L. Cancellari (Rottkamp) ’91
The Orange Girl from 1987 to 1991, Dryden, New York, native Cancellari was inducted into the New York State Twirling Hall of Fame.
Rebecca L. Fowler (Zachas) ’94
Lisa M. Branley (Castro) ’94
From 1990 to 1991 was one of the few times there was more than one Orange Girl. Fowler and Branley performed as a duet and were fondly referred to as the “Orange Twins.”
KeriAnn Lynch ’04
Lynch first twirled her baton in the Carrier Dome at age 8, when she performed in a pregame show as “The Tangerine.” She started twirling at age 5, marched in former President George H.W. Bush’s inaugural parade at age 6, twirled as a leprechaun in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland, worked as an entertainer on a cruise ship, and even led a parade at Disney World. She won numerous National Baton Twirling Association championships and was selected by the NBTA to be a member of the U.S.A. team.
Melissa E. Gaffney (Derr) ’08, G’09, G’10
As a young girl, Gaffney had a passion for gymnastics and dance. She outgrew her gymnastics studio at age 12, and began training in New Hampshire with the world-renowned Red Star Twirlers, where she met her predecessor, KeriAnn Lynch. Lynch became Gaffney’s teacher at Red Star, and the pair performed a routine at an international baton twirling competition that won them the title of best twirlers in the world.
Ashley Andrew ’13
Andrew started her twirling career as a student at the nationally known baton troupe The Red Star Twirlers. In her senior year at SU, she and another Red Star alum appeared in a twirling cameo in the Martin Scorcese movie The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Meghan Sinisi ’17
A native of Altoona, Pennsylvania, Sinisi started twirling when she was four years old. Her fast-paced, exciting routines led to her selection as SU’s current Orange Girl, as well as the 2013 North Atlantic Region and 2013 AYOP National Baton Twirling Champion. In March 2015, she was was crowned Miss Liberty 2015 at a scholarship preliminary pageant to Miss New York and Miss America. Along with the crown, she received a $500 scholarship and was selected by her fellow contestants as Miss Congeniality She will compete in the Miss New York pageant in June.
Memories of “100 Men and a Girl”: A conversation with Robert Chancia ’58
Tell us about yourself and your Syracuse University experience.
I was born and raised in Utica, New York, and attended Syracuse University from fall 1954 to June of ’58, majoring in advertising design in the former College of Fine Arts. My identical twin brother, Richard (Dick) Chancia ’58, and I both played clarinet in the marching band, known then as “100 Men and a Girl.” I was president of all University bands my senior year and played in the marching band, basketball pep band, symphonic band, and wind ensemble all four years.
What was it like to travel and perform with the marching band?
Playing, actively planning, and traveling with “100 Men and a Girl” while at SU was the highlight of our college experiences for both my brother and me. Traveling to places like New York City, West Point, Pitt, Boston, and Cornell, as well as the two Cotton Bowls and one Orange Bowl, was the thrill of our lifetimes. We were invited after graduation to join the band at the Orange Bowl in ’59 and second Cotton Bowl in ’60, when SU won the national championship. The uniqueness of our band, being all men with just one girl, was over the top and the fans loved it!
What do you remember of being in the band with Janet Kay (Smith) Dean ’61?
We always marveled at Jan’s skill, as well as that of twirler Alta Burg ’57, whom we marched with for three years before. When Jan arrived in Syracuse as a freshman from Flora, Illinois, in fall of ’57, the band’s student leader, Gordon Bascom ’59, and I left band camp to pick her up from the train station in my ’52 Chevy convertible. When we arrived back at the practice session, photographers from the local newspapers were there to do a photo op of her leading the 100 men for the first time.
I understand you had something to do with “Take it away, Janet Kay!”—the phrase that introduced the band’s performances?
My brother and I did some halftime show planning with director Marice Stith and designed and charted some formations for the band. I wrote many of the band’s scripts for the shows and did coin the phrase “Take it away, Janet Kay!” I was not the announcer who shouted it over the PA system, but my best friend, Joe Karam, was.
After graduating from Syracuse University, Robert Chancia served in the U.S. Army Reserves, then went on to a career in advertising, working for agencies and stores in New York, Michigan, and Florida. The author of two books of spiritual inspiration, he has served as a leader of various ministries for his church in New York City, where he resides.