Nine months after serving as the lead band at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, members of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band are rehearsing their new production, “That’s What’s Up,” and planning trips to the Bands of America Grand National Championship and a Carolina Panthers football game.
Also on the Pride’s fall agenda is a collaboration with a local bluegrass band during a WCU home football game in November.
With a good mix of veteran members and more than 200 freshmen, this year’s Pride of the Mountains will total 475 students, said David Starnes, WCU’s director of athletic bands.
“A leadership team comprised of over 90 students have planned, recruited and trained the band in an effort to maintain the traditions of the program, while elevating musical and visual expectations,” Starnes said.
This year’s production is designed and implemented by Starnes, along with two assistant directors of athletic bands, Matt Henley and Jon Henson. Musical arrangements are by Doug Thrower, a free-lance composer and arranger from Ontario, Canada, and drill design is by Jamey Thompson, a visual designer from Chicago, Starnes said.
“That’s What’s Up” will explore the concept of “up” through the use of emotion, with music made famous by artists ranging from Marvin Gaye to Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay and Fall Out Boy, Starnes said. The new production “illustrates mood, momentum and ascent through music and visual performance,” he said. “The real message of “up” lies in the potential to be our absolute very best in all that we do.”
In addition to performing at WCU home football games, the Pride of the Mountains’ schedule includes a trip to the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis, where more than 90 of the best high school bands from across the nation will compete. The Pride not only will present its new show, but also will take part in the event’s 40th anniversary ceremony, Starnes said. Performing in Indianapolis “is an honor that the band does not take for granted and a performance opportunity that allows Western Carolina University’s name to reach thousands of the top high school band students and parents in Lucas Oil Stadium,” he said.
In July, Henley was contacted by the Carolina Panthers organization with an invitation for the Pride’s drumline to take part in a “Drumline Showcase” during halftime of the Panthers’ game versus the Houston Texans on Sunday, Sept. 20. The Pride has two drumlines, Purple and Gold, and members of both will travel to Charlotte to perform in the showcase with the drumline from South Carolina State University and the Panthers’ drumline, Henley said.
The Panthers are supplying transportation, food and seats for the drumline members to watch the second half of the game, Henley said. “We are honored to be chosen and look forward to throwin’ down some purple and gold beats,” he said.
Another highlight of the Pride’s schedule is hosting its 15th annual Tournament of Champions, a competition for the best high school marching bands across the South, on Saturday, Oct. 17.
Later in the fall, on Saturday, Nov. 7, local bluegrass-gospel group Mountain Faith will join the Pride in performing the National Anthem before the start of WCU’s home football game against Furman. Mountain Faith has been garnering considerable national exposure in recent weeks on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent!”
Other members of the Pride’s 2015 instructional and design team, in addition to Starnes, Henley, Henson, Thrower and Thompson, are Bob Buckner, pregame drill designer; Bobby Richardson, color guard director; Ian Lewis, color guard choreographer; Scott Beck, rifle/saber choreographer; Brittany Mastromatteo, color guard technician; Scott Lanning, Purple drumline director; Chelsea Levine, cymbal technician; and Taylor Barnes, bass drum technician.
Staff coordinators are Jesseca Gregory, Alex Larsen, Brian Porterfield and Daniel Scott. Drum majors are Taylor Andrews, Zach Henderson, Victoria Johnson and Brandon Truitt, and caption coordinators are Malyk Adams, Justin Aponte, Brandon Kasseb, Jamie McDonald and Alaina Seidle.