Pride of the Mountains Marching Band plans to dazzle with new performance

Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is busy working on another truly noteworthy field show this year, with a new performance titled “Take Note!”

The title is a play on words, with “note” referring to musical notes and notations of many sorts, including the handwritten note, emails and texts, as well as moments of note. From high-tech production numbers to a vocalist singing an old-fashioned tune, the theme this year is communication in its many forms over the years.

The Pride of the Mountains is considered a national powerhouse among collegiate marching bands. The band was already well established when it was selected to be one of only 10 marching bands from across the nation to perform in the 2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

“Every year, it seems like we build upon that legacy,” said David Starnes, WCU’s director of athletic bands. “The quality every year has grown significantly, from the students we are attracting to the caliber of musicianship. The other piece of the equation is we’re getting more and more national notoriety.”

With a good mix of veteran members and more than 214 freshmen, this year’s Pride of the Mountains will total 485 students. A popular marching band website, collegemarching.com, recently ranked WCU as No. 2 on its list of bands to watch in the coming season, alongside such perennial powerhouses as Ohio State.

Fans will get their initial look at the production’s first two movements at the Catamount football home opener versus the Davidson Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 9. Songs range from Snarky Puppy’s “Atchafalaya” to the Frank Sinatra arrangement of “Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” That variety of selections continues with Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” along with standard classical compositions by Beethoven and Debussy’s “Clair de lune.”

David Starnes

“This production has something for everyone,” Starnes said. “It’s all about the way we communicate. To open, the color guard will form the shape of notes of a piano and the first song is Billy Joel’s ‘The Piano Man.’ The opening also includes ‘I’ve Got the Music in Me’ by the Kiki Dee Band.”

The third movement of the show is about the digital age, with an interactive moment using a large, voice activated prop with TV screens that sends the audience messages from the band. The color guard will use replicas of Post-it Notes as flags that, at the end of the show, are taken off, and then send another message to the audience.

“It spins itself into the whole life piece and how moments come together,” Starnes said. “We have One Direction’s ‘The Story of My Life’ as the closing number, to remember those moments in your life when that person sent you that note, sent you that email, called you, or the music you remember from that time.”

This year’s production was designed and implemented by Starnes, along with assistant directors of athletic bands Matt Henley and Jon Henson. Musical arrangements are by Doug Thrower, with drill design by Jamey Thompson. Members of the Pride’s 2017 instructional and design team are Bobby Richardson, color guard director; Megan Loyd and Brittany Maestromateo, color guard staff; and Taylor Barnes, percussion. Staff coordinators are Andrew Capps, Anna Ferritez, Jacob French and Maggie Pazur.

For more information about the band, visit prideofthemountains.com.