Pride of the Mountains calling for peace in 2018 production ‘Now is the Time’

Pride of the Mountains percussionists perform on the field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium in 2017.

Members of Western Carolina University’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band are issuing a plea for peace around the world through their 2018 production, titled “Now is the Time.”

The 490-member band will unveil this year’s show during halftime of the WCU Catamounts’ football game versus Newberry, which begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, at E.J. Whitmire Stadium. “The directors, staff, leadership team and student membership have worked incredibly hard to provide audiences with another unforgettable performance experience,” said David Starnes, WCU’s director of athletic bands.

The production, sponsored by local business B.H. Graning Landscapes Inc., is designed and implemented by Starnes, assistant directors Matt Henley and Jon Henson, and color guard director Bobby Richardson. Musical arrangements are by Doug Thrower and drill design is contributed by Jamey Thompson. Thrower and Thompson are recognized internationally for their contributions to the pageantry arts and are iconic names in the world of marching bands and drum and bugle corps, Starnes said. “With the reputation the Pride of the Mountains proclaims nationally, we recognize our design team as prime contributors to the innovation and entertainment excitement centered upon this year’s production,” he said.

Henley said student membership in the band has ranged between 425 and 505 over the last several years, with the 505 being recorded in 2014, the first year the band was invited to participate in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Membership could peak again next year when the band makes a return trip to Macy’s, he said.

WCU officials are confident that the university will record an all-time high of more than 2,000 freshmen this fall semester, with final numbers to be established on the official “census day” – Friday, Aug. 31. This year’s Pride of the Mountains includes 212 freshmen members. Freshmen typically make up 10 to 12 percent of the band, compared to less than 1 percent at colleges and universities nationwide, Henley said.

Starnes said “time” is the focus of this year’s production. “From the ticking of the clock to the visualization of sands through the hourglass, we recognize that all we have is time,” he said. “Time to make a difference, time to step up and be a better person to one another, time to be the change we wish to see in the world.” Featured music includes classic Styx melodies “The Best of Times” and “Too Much Time on My Hands,” Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” “Aquarius” from the Broadway musical “Hair,” “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” by Chicago, “Crazy” by Seal, Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” “Viva la Vida (Long Live Life)” by Coldplay and the Beatles’ timeless “Let It Be.”

Starnes said the fall semester will be one of the band’s busiest ever. In addition to performing at WCU football games, the ensemble’s student recruitment-related performance schedule includes the Enka “Land of the Sky” high school band competition Saturday, Sept. 29; WCU’s 18th annual Tournament of Champions event for high school bands Saturday, Oct. 20; and the Bands of America St. Louis Super Regional Championship on Oct. 26-27.

“As an organization, we are committed to musical outreach within and beyond the state of North Carolina, promoting the outstanding educational opportunities and reputation of Western Carolina University,” Starnes said.

Other members of the band staff are pregame drill designer Bob Buckner; color guard technicians Emily Lawson, Megan Loyd and Brittany Mastromatteo; purple drumline director Amanda Muse; bass drum technician Taylor Barnes; event assistants Sidney Caldwell and Alyssa Whitaker; drum majors Spencer Childers, Emma Schaefer, Holly Thomas and Keely Thomas; and caption teaching assistants Brett Farris, Ben Grochowsky, Baylee McSwain, Benjamin Pierce, Sarah Rodgers and Maylee Speakman.

More information about the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band can be found online at prideofthemountains.com.