Western Carolina University Pride of the Mountains Marching Band

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Pride of the Mountains Marching Band
POM Logo.jpg
School Western Carolina University
Location Cullowhee, North Carolina, U.S.
Conference Southern Conference
Founded 1938
Director David Starnes
Members 500+ (Fall 2014)
Website http://www.prideofthemountains.com/

The Pride of the Mountains is the marching band of Western Carolina University and is widely considered one of the best bands in the nation for innovative performances.

The band performs pre-game, half-time, and post-game shows at all Catamount Football home games and provides exhibition performances throughout the Carolinas. The Pride of the Mountains has been featured several times as an exhibition band at the BOA Grand National Championships (a showcase for the nation’s top high school marching bands) and at four BOA regional competitions in Atlanta, Georgia, once in the Rose Bowl Parade in 2011, and was featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in 2014. Tournament of Champions is hosted on the Western Carolina campus every year in the fall in which 25 high schools are invited to the campus to compete.


The Western Carolina University marching band was founded in 1938 with 23 students. In 1991 the band numbered 88 total members, including 18 dancers. Since that time the band has experienced a steady growth to its present membership level of just over 500 members making them the largest university marching band in the United States.[citation needed] The marching band is open to all Western Carolina University, Southwestern Community College, and Haywood Community College students regardless of class or major, with approximately 60% of its members comprising non-music majors. The class is available for zero, one, or two credits to encourage the optimal number of members.


Professional Staff[edit]

  • David Starnes is the Director of Athletic Bands at Western Carolina University. He is the former director of bands at Kennesaw Mountain High School in Kennesaw, Ga. The 2011-2012 marching season was his first year as the Director of Athletic Bands at Western Carolina University.
  • Mr. Matt Henley is a double graduate of Western Carolina University, receiving a BA in Music in 1993 and an MA in Music in 1995. His service to the “Pride of the Mountains” began in 1991 as a student and has continued through his appointment as the Assistant Director of the band. He is also responsible for all aspects of the marching percussion program[1] at Western Carolina University, is the Director of the Summer Symposium for Marching Arts camp, is the Recruiting Coordinator for the School of Music, and currently serves on the Percussive Arts Society National Marching Committee.
  • Mr. Jon Henson is an Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at Western Carolina University. Some of his primary duties are to instruct and arrange for the rhythm section or "Soul Train" and serve as the primary instructor for the front ensemble. His other duties include the management of all aspects of the "Pride of the Mountains" Electronics as well as developing media for the band program. He also works with the "Pride of the Mountains" "Cathouse Bands".
  • Doug Thrower serves as Wind arranger.
  • Jamey Thompson serves as Drill designer
  • Ian Lewis and Scott Beck serves as a Color Guard Design Consultant and Choreographer.
  • Bobby Richardson serves as the permanent Color Guard Instructor.

Recent Honors[edit]

In 1998, 2003, 2008, 2012, and 2015, the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band was featured as an exhibition show at the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis. In 2009, the "Pride of the Mountains" marching band was selected as one of the five best collegiate marching bands in the nation by the College Band Directors National Association and featured in the book "Marching Bands and Drumlines: Secrets of Success from the Best of the Best” by Paul Buyer.

2012 Grand Nationals[edit]

Recognized on both a regional and national level as one of the premier marching bands in the nation, the Pride of the Mountains traveled to Indianapolis to perform two shows in the Lucas Oil Stadium. WCU’s 2012 production, entitled “How We Roll” included four movements titled, “Pop,” “Lock,” “Drop,” “Stop,” and “Roll,” and featured a variety of artists.

Sudler Trophy[edit]

The Pride of the Mountains won the Sudler Trophy in 2009. The award is often referred to as the "Heisman Trophy of collegiate marching bands". Western Carolina is the only institution in the state of North Carolina and the first member of the Southern Conference selected for this very prestigious award.[2]

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade[edit]

In 2014, the Pride of the Mountains performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The band performed with 510 members participating, and announcers described their performance as "This is the largest band this parade has seen in decades", "This is the best of the best", and "They don't mess around at Western Carolina".[3][4][5]

Pep bands[edit]

The "Cathouse Band" pep band plays at home basketball games during basketball season. A band of 100+ members for both men's and women's basketball games is open to all students. The pep bands travel with the WCU basketball teams to end of season conference and NCAA tournaments.

"Purple Thunder" is a standing, indoor percussion ensemble that performs during halftime at select home basketball games. The group is chosen through an audition process. In addition to the drums (snares, tenors, and basses), the group also includes the WCU Cheer and Dance Teams, as well as an electronic sound system that provides the pop music that accompanies the percussion.[6][7] The group made their debut performance in the spring of 2008.


March to the Stadium[edit]

Approximately one hour prior to the start of home Catamount Football games, the marching band lines up for the march to the stadium. The march is complete with police escort. The band lines up in the street between Scott Resident Hall and the dining hall and marches down the road past the Fine and Performing Arts Center and halts in front of the stadium to perform the fight song for the crowd of tailgating fans.

Singing the Alma Mater[edit]

The singing of the Alma Mater occurs during the pregame show. It is sung right before the National Anthem, which marks the beginning to the spirit sequence, in which the band spells out different variations of the university's mascot. The Alma Mater is also sung after the post game performance before the band dismisses for the day.

Tournament of Champions[edit]

The Pride of the Mountain's Tournament of Champions is an invitational competition that invites 25 of the Southeast's top high school marching bands to the Cullowhee campus annually. This events attracts nearly 10,000 musicians and spectators. Pride of the Mountains also performs twice on this day as an exhibition show.

Other ensembles[edit]

  • Wind Ensemble - Directed by Dr. Margaret Underwood, this auditioned ensemble of 40-50 music majors, performs a challenging repertory that includes premieres of commissioned works. This group meets every semester and tours in the spring of odd-numbered years.
  • Jazz Band - Directed by jazz pianist Pavel Wlosok, this auditioned group performs jazz standards and new works for jazz band. Tours in the spring of even-numbered years.
  • Symphony Band - Directed by David Starnes, this auditioned ensemble of 50-60 music majors, performs a challenging repertory of both standard and contemporary works.
  • Concert Band - Directed by Dr. Margaret Underwood and David Starnes, this ensemble of 60-70 members serves as both an auditioned ensemble for music majors and an audition free ensemble for non-majors and performs literature of the medium to medium advanced category. This group meets in only the Spring semester.
  • Artist-in-Residence Orchestra - With a professional string section from the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, this auditioned ensemble performs orchestral masterworks with wind, brass, and percussion students.
  • Civic Orchestra - A college and community chamber orchestra, led by Dr. Bradley Martin.
  • Percussion Ensemble - Led by Dr. Mario Gaetano, this group performs challenging works for various combinations of percussion instruments.
  • Studio Ensembles - Most of the wind and brass studios offer small ensembles of like instruments that are conducted or coached by the studio teacher.
  • Gamelan Ensemble - Consists of tuned percussion instruments (gongs, chimes, etc.) from Indonesia and is directed by Joy Shea.
  • Concert Choir - Directed by Dr. Michael Lancaster.
  • Catamount Singers & Electric Soul - Directed by Dr. Bruce Frazier and Jon Henson, this vocal ensemble performs popular music combined with choreography. This group includes a full rhythm and horn section called Electric Soul. It is the primary ensemble of the Commercial & Electronic music program at WCU.
  • Mountain Winds - Directed by Bob Buckner and Jon Henson, is community ensemble is open musicians around the Western North Carolina area.

Service organizations[edit]

Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia

Kappa Kappa Psi

Sigma Alpha Iota


  2. ^ "Western Carolina University wins Heisman trophy of marching bands". Newswise. 2009. 
  3. ^ "Pride of the Mountains to participate in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade". 2013. 
  4. ^ https://www.youtube.com Western Carolina University at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (2014).
  5. ^ https://www.youtube.com Pride of the Mountains Marching Band at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2014.
  6. ^ https://www.youtube Purple Thunder, WCU's Pride of the Mountains drumline, make it bounce!
  7. ^ https://www.youtube WCU's Purple Thunder - "Hit The Lights"

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°18′39.60″N 83°11′02.40″W / 35.3110000°N 83.1840000°W / 35.3110000; -83.1840000

Preceded by
Indiana University
Sudler Trophy Recipient
Succeeded by
University of Notre Dame