PrintCULLOWHEE – How many universities can say 15-20 percent of each freshman class plays in their marching band?

“The Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is a phenomenon,” Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher declares in the accompanying video.

“It’s become a tradition here,” Belcher says.  “But I tell you, it’s part of the learning experience for those students.  It’s about leadership.  It’s about discipline.  It’s just amazing.”

Belcher and David Starnes, Western’s Director of Marching Bands, credit former Director Bob Buckner with building Pride of the Mountains over 25 years.

Now the band numbers 500 members.  In 2009, it won the Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest honor for collegiate marching bands.  It marched in the 2011 Tournament of Roses Parade.1  It led the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and has played in the National Marching Band Championships two of the past three years.  The band even has its own 120-member leadership program.

“It’s a family,” says Starnes.  “This marching band – the band program as a whole – is a family…. The kids have a place to go here.”

Pride of the Mountains serves as a recruiting tool for the University, attracting students from both inside and outside the state.

“They see that and they want to be a part of it,” says Starnes.  “They don’t know they want to come to Western Carolina until they see the band.  And sometimes they don’t even know what they want to major in, but they know they want to be a part of the band and they find a major through the band program.

“More than anything, it’s a pride issue on our campus,” Starnes says.  “There are students all over this campus with Pride of the Mountains gear on, and they’re rock stars on this campus.”


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