By Drew Epperley
The colorful history of the West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band dates back to 1901 when it was an eight-member, all-male ROTC band dressed in military-style uniforms. The band performed in those uniforms for years.
In 1925, eleven non-ROTC men decided to form their own marching band, but first had to become a legitimate student organization. They quickly pledged a Greek fraternity and created what is now WVU’s Omicron chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi. It wasn’t until years later that the two bands merged into one true University Marching Band. By 1938 it had grown to approximately 70 members.
The 1950s and 1960s ushered in the modern era for the band. Both of the University’s fight songs, “Fight Mountaineers” and “Hail West Virginia” were arranged for the band by Budd Udell and are still the arrangements played today.
In 1971, Don Wilcox began his 27-year stint as director. Under his leadership, the band experienced rapid growth and development, tripling in size, accepting women, and tackling challenging musical selections.
The band got its official nickname in 1975 when the Peach Bowl announcer was the first to introduce it as “The Pride of West Virginia,” and the phrase quickly stuck.
Also in 1975, a set of custom-designed uniforms was introduced for the then-200-member band. These uniforms consisted of a coat that was half blue and half gold in the front and white in the back, blue pants with a stripe, and a tall “shako” or cylindrical military dress hat. The band again received new uniforms, each with a new look, in 1984 and 1995.
Probably the most important event in the history of the band was in 1997 when the Pride was selected as the recipient of the Sudler Trophy from the John Philip Sousa Foundation. This prestigious award recognizes the nation’s outstanding collegiate marching band.
Throughout its 105-year history, the Mountaineer Marching Band has grown and evolved into an active, high-spirited organization with a great tradition and national exposure. To the citizens of the state of West Virginia and beyond, the Marching Band exemplifies WVU.
With the Mountaineers stepping on the field this fall as the defending Big East and Sugar Bowl champions, the Pride will also usher in a new look that will energize fans and help “bring on the Mountaineers” for years to come.
The design of the 2006 WVU Marching Band uniforms combines the best and most popular qualities of the last two into a striking, updated version. The white coat front is accented with a diagonal gold sash across the torso. The flying WV is displayed prominently on the left. A trimmed canopy has been added to the shortened coat, bringing added detail and a twenty-first century style. The state outline, flying WV, and the words “The Pride of West Virginia” will be an added embroidered detail on the right shoulder of each coat. The sleeve will show slight modification as well; the new coats will offer a significant band of gold-trimmed blue fabric ending in a straight cuff. The half cape is being replaced with the full cape that was last seen during the 1980s. The cape and back of the coat feature a large, gold flying WV. The helmet receives an update as well: a blue flying WV will be featured on top of the gold shield in the front.
“The new uniforms will be a great addition to the future
of the Pride of West Virginia. It is exciting to imagine how the entire band will look with the uniforms’ clean lines and updated design.
After many years, this change is just what the Pride needs to
continue its great legacy of sound and image.”
—Bryan Welker, Fairfax, VA
Music Education Major, Plays Percussion
Did You Know?
• There have been 11 directors of the marching band. Four served only one year (Clifford Brown, Richard Strange, Frank Borkowski, and Gerald Zimmerman).
Walter Mestrezat – 37 years
Don Wilcox – 27 years
Bernard McGregor – 13 years
Lawrence Intravaia – 9 years
Budd Udell – 6 years
John Hendricks – 7 years
Jay Drury – 1 year (appointed in 2005)
• The largest band in WVU’s history was in 1998 when the band had 380 members.
• The band has performed at numerous away football games including at Kentucky, Oklahoma, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Notre Dame, and Purdue.
• The band has performed at bowl games throughout the country, including the Bluebonnet, Carquest, Fiesta, Gator, Hall of Fame, Insight.com, Music City, Peach, Sugar, and Sun.
• Half of the band members are in-state students while the other half is comprised of students from all over the country.
• Several members have gone on to become college and high school band directors.
“I use methods and lessons I learned in the WVU Band every day in my job as a high school band director,” says Mark Hardman, band director of George Washington High School in Charleston, West Virginia. “I highly value the time I spent in the band. Some of my greatest memories and peak experiences were created in the band, and I still keep in touch with friends I made there.”
“My years in the Mountaineer Marching Band had a profound impact on my life. I will never forget our pre-game performance in the 1994 Sugar Bowl in the Louisiana Superdome. The leadership and influence of Don Wilcox and John Hendricks have had a remarkable effect on both my life and career,” said Roger Walker (BM ’95, MM ’97), director of bands at Frankfort High School in Ridgeley, West Virginia.
• This will be the third Band Aid drive conducted by the WVU Foundation. The first was for the 1984 uniforms and the second in 1995.
Every member . . . every note . . . every step . . . every time.
The WVU Marching Band—“The Pride of West Virginia” —is in need of new uniforms. The old ones are simply worn out. The WVU Foundation is conducting a “Band Aid” fund-raising effort to replace the eleven-year-old uniforms. The goal is to raise $270,000 for uniforms and accessories.
“The manufacturer said the average life of band uniforms is seven to eight years,” said Jay Drury, Marching Band director. “We’ve done very well making them last this long. The band members took very good care of the uniforms.”
The new uniforms will be unveiled and officially dedicated at the WVU versus Marshall football game on September 2.
All donors will receive an “I support the Pride of West Virginia” car decal. Donors of $100 or more will receive a special edition band CD available only to Band Aid Drive contributors. The Band will display “Thank You” during a game performance.
Giving Clubs Include:
Band Members Club
Donor giving $500 to $999
• Band CD and car decal
• Name of donor will go into uniform
• Donor will receive a retired band hat
Drum Major Club
Donors giving $1,000 to $4,999
• Band Members Club benefits
• Invitation to Key Note Concert in Morgantown
• Recognition as WVU Foundation partner
Band Directors Club
Donors giving $5,000+
• Drum Major Club benefits
• Framed flying WV from a retired uniform
The cost breakdown of a new uniform is:
Coat and cape $340
Band pants $105
Band helmet and plume $60
Contributions to the Band Aid fund-raising drive should be sent to:
Band Aid Drive
PO Box 1650
Morgantown, WV 26507-1650
Checks should be made to the WVUF-Band Aid Drive. Gifts need to be made by September 1.
For further information, call the Foundation at 304-284-4016 or visit online at www.wvuf.org/bandaid/
Summer 2006 Contents