The first time Director of Athletic Bands Andy Smith met President J. Bradley Creed, he made casual mention of his surprise that a school with a football team was without a marching band. Three months later, Smith received an email from the president that would change his job description drastically.
Today, the president and Smith are approving the final designs for the marching band uniforms (“No shako plumes” was President Creed’s only stipulation).
The Sound of the Sandhills announced their plans to march in fall 2018 last summer and have spent the last two semesters laying the groundwork for the new program. A marching band means the familiar crowd-pleasing tunes on game nights won’t be limited to the pep band’s corner of Barker-Lane Stadium. But the program’s reach will extend far beyond the football field. The marching band is a huge draw for incoming high school students.
Feedback from prospective students has been overwhelmingly positive, but Smith clarifies that comparing college marching bands and high school programs is like comparing apples to oranges. “It can’t be any more different,” he says. “Primarily because college marching bands don’t compete. We’re in this to entertain crowds at halftime, grow the footprint of the University and support Campbell — it’s not about forwarding the marching arts like high school programs and professional drum corps.”
University marching bands may not have the intensity of competitive programs, but their role on campus is a valuable one. Marching bands have the unique power to turn a stadium crowd into a family of dedicated fans, and the Sound of the Sandhills plans to get a head start on setting the tone each week. They’ll preface every game by playing a set of new music in Academic Circle before marching down to the field for kickoff.
Because their fundamental purpose is to create atmosphere at university events, college marching bands have a much wider repertoire than bands that spend an entire season perfecting one performance for competition. Some college bands perform a new show every week, practicing long and hard to bring fresh drill formations and music to each game. But Smith has set a goal of one halftime show this fall for the band’s first year on the field.
“It’s a baby step towards producing three different shows per season,” says Smith, “and once we have the foundation down when it comes to rehearsals and show design, we’ll roll out more.”
The Sound of the Sandhills is expecting 135 students in its first year, many of whom are already counted among the band department’s 160 students. Smith says students have been enthusiastic about the new program, even those who have never marched in a band before. It helps that students who participate in both athletic and concert bands will be eligible for a scholarship, encouraging them to learn and perform on the stage as well as in the stadium.