Above: Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo shows fans a plaque presented to the university in recognition of the WCU Pride of the Mountains Marching Band winning the Sudler Trophy.
Everything’s coming up roses for Western Carolina University’s marching band these days, as the 360 members of WCU’s Pride of the Mountains learned Saturday, Oct. 24, that the band has been selected to participate in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade.
Surprise announcement of the latest honor for Western Carolina’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band came during a ceremony recognizing WCU as winner of the 2009 Sudler Trophy. Representatives of the John Philip Sousa Foundation officially presented the award – the nation’s ultimate honor for college and university bands and a prize that has been called the “Heisman Trophy” of the collegiate marching band world – at halftime of WCU’s home football game.
Bob Buckner, director of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, said he has known about the band’s selection to appear in the Tournament of Roses Parade for several weeks, but did not want the news to overshadow the Sudler Trophy ceremony.
“We presented band members with yellow rose boutonnieres with purple ribbons to wear on their uniforms for the Sudler presentation,” Buckner said. “We wanted them to think they were just wearing the school colors for the ceremony, when we really were giving them a little hint about another big event coming their way in about 14 months.”
It was up to public address announcer Ryan Hipps to deliver the news to the band members – and to football fans, former band directors, and band alumni and parents in attendance during the Sudler Trophy presentation.
“We also are very excited to announce a surprise for the current band membership. The rose on your uniform today not only symbolizes the events of today, but also another honor in your future,” Hipps said. “The Pride of the Mountains has been selected, invited and is going to represent Western Carolina University and the great state of North Carolina in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.”
Called “The Granddaddy of Them All,” the parade is held annually on New Year’s Day in conjunction with the Rose Bowl college football game, part of the Bowl Championship Series. The parade is seen by hundreds of thousands of spectators who line the 5 ½-mile route, and by millions of viewers around the world who watch television broadcasts of the event. The parade features flower-decorated floats, the top high school and college marching bands from around the world, equestrian units and other attractions.
“The Tournament of Roses has selected Western Carolina University to participate in ‘America’s New Year’s Celebration’ because of your band’s excellent musical talents, entertainment value, performance skills, and your outstanding directorship,” Stacy Houser, chair of the parade’s music selection committee, said in a letter to Buckner.
In addition to announcement of the Rose Parade invitation and the unveiling of the Sudler Trophy, Saturday’s ceremony included greetings from state and national elected officials. Boyce Deitz, field representative for U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, presented WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo with an official commendation that has been entered into the Congressional Record.
“The Pride of the Mountains is indeed a source of pride not only for Western Carolina University, but for everyone in the mountains of Western North Carolina,” Shuler said in his remarks from the floor of the House of Representatives on Oct. 7.
N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue also sent a letter of congratulations to members of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band for representing “the state of North Carolina with distinction.”
Western Carolina is the first institution in the state of North Carolina and the first member of the Southern Conference selected for the Sudler Trophy. Past recipients of the honor include the universities of Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama, and Ohio State, Louisiana State, Penn State and Auburn universities.
Established in 1982, the award is presented to a college or university marching band that has demonstrated the highest of musical standards and innovative marching routines and ideas, and which has made important contributions to the advancement of the performance standards of college marching bands over a number of years.
Bardo, who called the band “one of the most important emissaries of WCU for more than a decade,” said the award is especially meaningful because it recognizes an extended record of excellence achieved by the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.
Paula Crider, professor emerita from the University of Texas and chair of the Sudler Trophy committee, presented a plaque for the university to Bardo; and personal plaques to Buckner and assistant directors Matt Henley and Jon Henson; and to Aaron Hyatt, band director from 1960 through 1966; Robert Welch, director from 1969 through 1977; Joseph Scagnoli, director from 1978 through 1984; and John West, director from 1985 until 1990. More than 100 marching band alumni were on hand for the day’s activities, which included the annual Alumni Band performance.
The Pride of the Mountains is widely regarded as one of the top marching bands in the Southeast for its elaborate field shows. Often called “the world’s largest funk-rock band,” the unit performs a crowd-pleasing medley of up-tempo pop tunes, with electric guitars, singers and other musical elements not typically associated with marching bands. For more information, visit http://www.prideofthemountains.com/ or call (828) 227-2259.
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Last Modified: Monday, Oct. 26, 2009