The future of the WCU marching band

The Pride of the Mountains marching band rocked audiences with their show this year, titled “Rock U”. Photo provided by Christina Robinson

The Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains marching band ended another eventful season after performing in the Rose Bowl parade on national television, and being voted the best band at the parade in an online poll held on the Rose Bowl web page.

However, at the end of the Spring 2011 semester the band will be searching for new leadership.  Director Bob Buckner will be retiring from his position as director after being with the band since 1991.

The students in the band speak highly of Dr. Buckner.

“Bob Buckner has to be the single greatest thing that has happened to this band. He has taken this program from a small time mountain band to the best marching band not only in the area, but anywhere,” sophomore baritone saxophone player Ethan Dyer says.

Sophomore clarinet player Merry Wilson adds that even though Buckner won’t be at WCU, that “he’s put us in a position that no matter who the next director is, we’re always going to be incredible.”

From the new director, they expect to continue working as they are now.

“I want somebody who can walk in the door and hit the ground running.  I think we’ve got a great band, and instead of just starting over with a new director, I want to see us keep pushing forward every day,”said junior saxophone player Josh Rice.

Instead of starting from scratch, Wilson said “I want someone who is open to new ideas but wants to keep the style of the band the same.  I don’t want someone who’s going to come in and want to change who we are. That’s why we are as good as we are.”

Of course, the band members will do everything they can to help out the program’s next director.  Dyer offered some advice to Buckner’s successor, advising him or her to “listen to the support structure that is in place.”

The marching band program currently has two assistant directors in Jon Henson and Matt Henley.  Dyer expressed his faith in these two and their ability to lead the band and assist the future director.

“No one person can run this band by himself, but with the staff that we have, I am sure that Bob’s successor will be in a good place to continue to take this amazing program to astounding heights,” said Dyer.

The Pride of the Mountains marching band is an integral part of Western Carolina University and the surrounding community.  The band routinely performs at football games, hosts an annual marching band competition during the fall, and also performs around the country at national marching band competitions.  The band’s consistent excellence earned them the Sudler trophy in 2009, which has been nicknamed the “Heisman trophy” for marching bands.

“I see us only getting better. We still have the rest of our staff to help out so it’s not like we are losing everyone,” says Wilson. “I definitely see something really big in the band’s very near future.  I think we’ll just have to wait and see!”

The band has also become a way to recruit new students for WCU. 15 percent of the incoming freshmen class last year participated in the marching band.

The future of the Pride of the Mountains marching band may be uncertain for now, but one thing is certain: the members of the band, they say, will continue to strive to be the best  band in the land.