It wouldn’t do any good to tell Erin Ketterman not to play with fire.
Flaming torches are part of her role as the featured baton twirler with the Mountain Pointe Lionheart Marching Band that performs at football games and competitions.
“My arms get singed sometimes, but I’m used to it,” Ketterman said with a grin.
She and the Lionheart Band will share the stage in Karl Kiefer Stadium tonight with the 365-member Arizona State University band before and during halftime of the Mountain Pointe-Mesa Westwood football game.
The Sun Devil Marching Band features three twirlers, but Ketterman is a rarity in this end of the Valley.
“There are some in Scottsdale and Phoenix, but as far as I know I’m the only high school twirler in the East Valley,” she said.
Twirlers, or majorettes as they used to be called, are a fading breed with high school bands.
And Ketterman may not have had an opportunity to perform if it wasn’t for Mountain Pointe band director Joshua Hartgrove.
“I’m very, very spoiled,” she said, “not only because I’m the only twirler here, but because I have a band director who loves twirlers. For some reason most band directors don’t want twirlers.”
Twirlers were part of Hartgrove’s background when he taught in Alabama before coming to Mountain Pointe.
“It seems to be regional,” Hartgrove said. “Twirlers are a tradition in Alabama and I had a squad of four, sometimes five twirlers. But Erin is definitely the best I’ve ever worked with.”
Ketterman started throwing batons in the air before her fifth birthday, and the pyrotechnics that became part of the show when she was in the sixth grade, are only a part of her routine.
“She adds a lot of excitement for the crowd and a visual interest and enthusiasm to the marching band,” Hartgrove added.
When she steps out of her sequined costumes Ketterman is also a musician playing saxophone with the Mountain Pointe concert band and wind ensemble.
Away from the brass horns and drums Ketterman has also been involved in twirling competitions.
“I’m more nervous when there are people in the stands at our football games than at competitions,” she said. “Even though most people don’t know actually what I’m doing I know I’m going to hear people if I drop (the batons). In competition it’s not the end of the world.”
If she just played the saxophone she would likely just be part of the student body.
But twirling sets her apart and she even has to shrug off some playful nicknames like “twirler girl” and “fire chick.”
“I just yell back, ‘My name’s Erin,’ but it’s OK,” she said. “I feel very lucky to be here.”