Marching band boosters group being formed at Western Carolina

CULLOWHEE – As membership tops 300 in Western Carolina University’s marching band, the musical unit known as “The Pride of the Mountains” is forming a new band boosters organization called “Partners for Pride” to help raise money for scholarships for student musicians.

“We have a lot of exciting things going on in our band program, but we really need additional support so we can provide educational and musical opportunities for students who lack the financial resources to attend the university, and we need resources to allow us to be competitive in attracting the top players from around the country,” said Matt Henley, assistant director for athletic bands at Western. “That’s where Partners for Pride comes in.”

As is the case for the university in general, Western’s marching band has experienced explosive growth over the past several years. Under the leadership of Bob Buckner, director of athletic bands, membership in the band increased from 82 in 1991 to 237 in 2003 – and is expected to grow by another 100 musicians this year, to more than 330.

Performing a crowd-pleasing medley of up-tempo pop and rhythm-and-blues tunes, the band has been tagged “the world’s largest funk band,” with electric guitars, singers and other musical elements not typically associated with marching bands. The Bands of America organization has praised the unit as “one of the most innovative and exciting band in the nation.”

The Pride of the Mountains performed as an exhibition band during last year’s prestigious Bands of America Grand National Championships, a showcase for the nation’s top high school marching bands. It marked the Western band’s second appearance as an exhibition band at the Grand Nationals.

Western also hosts the annual Tournament of Champions, which attracts some 2,500 high school musicians from across the Southeast to compete in an invitational competition judged by some of the best marching band leaders in the nation.

Contributions to the Partners for Pride fund will be accepted at any level from all fans and supporters of the marching band. Parents of current marching band students and alumni who performed with the band during their college years are especially encouraged to contribute.

For information on Partners for Pride, contact Bill Richter, director of athletic development, at (828) 227-2530.