‘Everything WCU does works’

This story was written by Quintin Ellison, originally published in The Sylva Herald.

Photo courtesy of Russ Parker/Star Fire Media.
This year, the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band put 485 musicians on the field – an almost unheard of number for a college band. The school sets a cap of 500 band students. To keep numbers below the maximum, WCU last year started selecting musicians through auditions

Who’s the baddest band in America? Western Carolina University, that’s who, according to CollegeMarching.com, operated by Blue Line Media.

The organization provides nationwide news coverage and information about marching bands.

Here’s what the article says:

“There are halftime shows and then there’s the Western Carolina Pride of the Mountains halftime show. Holy. Moly.

“If you want big sound, a massive band, insane color guard, props, a dj and video integration, well you have come to the right place. This show has it all, and honestly it’s the craziest thing we’ve ever seen. The second half of this show is the definition of high octane. Once the drum-line feature kicks in there is nothing that can stop the Pride of the Mountains from melting your face.”

In a followup interview, Blue Line Media’s co-founder, Michael Barasch, said WCU is all of what’s been written and a bag of chips, too.

“We have seen enough other bands to know what works and what doesn’t. Everything WCU does works,” he said. “There’s no one in the country doing what they do at their size and they are truly the baddest band in the land.”

This year, 485 students took the field for WCU, band Director David Starnes said Monday.

Photo by Mark Haskett. At WCU, the marching band is revered by students, alumni and community members alike, and in the last decade its fame has spread far beyond campus as it has earned national acclaim.

The 2017 season has just finished. Starnes is planning for next year – he needs to replace 55 graduating seniors. “I’m always looking for the next rock star I can bring to WCU,” the band director said.

Recruitment takes place year-around, though Starnes said the program’s reputation for excellence means it almost sells itself.

In fact, too many students wanting to participate is emerging as a bigger issue than trying to attract new members. He believes the NC Promise program could compound the problem. Beginning next fall, WCU undergraduate students from North Carolina will see their out-of-pocket tuition expenses reduced to $500 per semester.

Last year, for the first time, musicians had to audition to make the half-time band, though everyone could take part in pre-game band activities. Budget amounts (nine charter buses are required now) added to space concerns (the students need room to march) keeps the Pride of the Mountains’ participant number capped at a maximum 500, Starnes said.

As CollegeMarching.com notes, WCU performs one show a season, progressively unveiling parts until the band is performing the spectacle in its entirety. Other college marching bands typically rotate among three or four shows during the season.

WCU spends “all year perfecting and building one show,” CollegeMarching.com says. “By doing this they are able to put together one incredibly bad *** show by the end of the season.”