A live singer, shapes in the forms of eyes and music ranging from opera to modern pop: these were just some of the things a massive audience got to see and hear when the “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band performed in South Carolina.
On Oct. 15, the almost 500-member band traveled to Columbia, S.C. to perform at Blythewood High School’s Tournament of Bands. The WCU band performed two times for 32 bands from all over the South in attendance.
The band’s 2016 production is titled “Whee See You,” featuring music from Adele, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Brightman, Zedd and more. The main theme of the show is about different forms of perception and sight. The band has been working since August on this production and has recently added new visual movements and choreography, performed for the first time at the contest.
For a lot of band members, this is one of the most important performances of their lives.
“I think the South Carolina trip means a new opportunity to expand where our fans are. It’s also the first time we are traveling out of state together as a family this season,” said Carrie Hudson, staff coordinator of the band.
Thousands of people were in attendance at one of the biggest marching band competitions held in the Southeast, many of whom were there seeing “Pride of the Mountains” for the first time.
“The South Carolina performance is an important one because of our audience. By going out-of-state we are able to perform in front of crowds in which the majority of those individuals have never witnessed a performance of ours, and some may have never heard of us to begin with. These first impressions are really important, and I am confident that they will all be positive,” said Alex Larsen, low woodwind caption coordinator of the band.
The band has been recognized on a national level, having appeared in the 2011 Rose Bowl Parade in California, the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and performed at the 2015 Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis. While this level of recognition is exciting for the band, this smaller trip to a close place was an opportunity to recruit high school students to come to WCU and be in the band.
“Since the previous trips we have taken have been far away from Cullowhee we weren’t able to recruit many students to come to WCU. With this trip, though, it is right in our backyard and these students are looking at places to go to college or soon will be. Once they see our band perform they will want to know more about our school, and that’s how we get great students,” said Julian Willis, staff coordinator of the band.
Willis was also responsible for planning and running this trip for the band. With almost 500 members, this being an overnight trip, and it being out-of-state, careful planning was required to make this trip happen.
“Planning the trip was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done,” said Willis. “When you think about planning a trip your mind instantly goes to the big picture (schedule, hotels, busses). But you don’t think about the math of how many bottles of water and granola bars you need to buy for 500 people.”
The “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band will be ending its season in November when they travel to Florida to perform at the Florida Marching Band Championships in St. Petersburg.
Brandon Key is a member of the “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band and performed at the exhibition.