Posts Tagged ‘college bands’


May 27, 2019

L e t ‘ s D I s c u s s

Chapter 1 — Marching Bands

The man with the baton, whose picture I took a few years ago, and I have something in common. He was leading the Williamsburg Drum and Fife Corps, representing the very first U.S. Army marching musical units. They started during the American Revolutionary War. Over time woodwinds and brass were added to become the Army bands like the 30th Army Band that I led as drum major in Munich.

Richmond 162

Fife and Drum Corps, WIlliamsburg, VA

It was a very good band. After all, Army bands are made up of professional musicians. The Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band is truly impressive right now, not only on parade, but in concert, also. Let me hastily add, the Munich band was quite good not because of me. My MOS was “percussionist.” I was good enough to know that I was outclassed by the rest of the section. However, I think I was quite proficient as a drum major, so I didn’t feel guilty about my musician status. That’s because I had been legendary band director Bob Barr’s first male Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band drum major. He accepted nothing less than a student’s absolutely best effort. And, not only did I lead the band in football game halftime shows, I led it in ROTC Pass in Review parades, so I already knew how to do that. As a side note, when he learned I wanted to be a radio announcer, he introduced me to WDAK’s Ed Snyder, a savvy announcer who had a degree in broadcasting from the University of Alabama. Ed became my mentor and helped me land my first job in broadcasting at WDAK in 1948. Pardon the digression. Back to the subject, marching bands.

Then, there is the college marching band. My experience there is quite limited. In the early 1950s, I was in the Mercer University ROTC band. It was the school’s only band at the time, formed when I was there to play for ROTC parades. I played snare drum in that one. Maybe someone reading this has big time college band experiences to tell us about, bands like Georgia’s, Auburn’s, Alabama’s, Tech’s, etc. I have four great-nephews and one great- niece who played at Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. I don’t know if any of them will see this, though.

If I get any comments on this way too long post, I’ll continue the series. The symphony will be Chapter 2.

Alabama’s Really is a Million Dollar Band

January 3, 2010
The Crimson Tide is certainly a million dollar football team – the coach probably makes that much – but, it’s the band that gets the moniker. The University of Alabama marching band has been called the Million Dollar Band since 1922.
If W.C. “Champ” Pickens, the alumnus given credit for naming the band,  learned what it cost to transport it today, he’d probably really be impressed.  The band’s website tells us that the name “Million Dollar Band” was bestowed on the organization in 1922 by Pickens. He was impressed that the band raised enough money to travel from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta to play at the Georgia Tech vs.  Alabama game. The band wasn’t really big then, so it probably only cost a couple of thousand dollars for the ride.

Will Gibson, percussionist, University of Alabama Million Dollar Band

Will Gibson, son of Karen and my late nephew Jack Gibson, played drums in the Million Dollar Band up until this year.  I asked him if he had any idea of what it would cost to fly today’s band to Pasadena, California for the National Championship game Thursday.  He said he really didn’t know, but if we assume  that the round-trip ticket is $300 per band member , we could figure that the cost would be more than $100,000.  That’s just air transportation cost. You have to add the cost of ground transportation,  food and hotel rooms and, well, when you consider that a number of trips are made,  and the other expenses involved with fielding a band that large, you can see that the phrase “Million Dollar Band” is  now loaded with real meaning.
I have a special stake in the game and the band’s performance.  One connection,of course, is Will, who is, by the way, like his father,  a great percussionist.  He  played with the band for a lot of games, including a  few bowl games, but decided to give it up this year so he could devote his time to his studies.  Will’s mom Karen got her masters in English at Alabama,  and his father was the lead instructor of the band’s percussion section before Will was born, and he ended up getting his PhD at Alabama.  So, yes, I want Alabama to beat Texas and become  national champions.
I am probably going to be miffed at ABC because  it probably will not show the bands very much.  None of the networks give much air time to the college football bands, though I have seen a little improvement lately.   Maybe enough emails will get their attention.  Just click on this ESPN LINK  and, in the comment box, tell them you would like to be able to see the Alabama and Texas bands  during the broadcast of the national championship game.  Forward this to your friends and ask them to do the same thing.  It takes numbers to impress these folks.
(This post has been updated with more information in the post that now precedes it.)

Troy University Edges out Auburn U. and Alabama

August 18, 2009


Steve Dennis, Troy University Athletic Director,  speaking to Phenix City Rotarians, Phenix City, AL

Steve Dennis, Troy University Athletic Director, speaking to Phenix City Rotarians, Phenix City, AL

According to Forbes magazine, Troy University is the number one university in Alabama, edging out both Auburn U. and the University of Alabama.  That’s what Troy’s Director of Athletics Steve Dennis told members of the Phenix City Rotary Club Monday.  He said that Forbes listed the rankings of all U.S. universities and Troy came out ahead of all other Alabama schools of higher education.

He spent the majority of his speech on academics,  how the school makes learning its top priority, and how important online learning has become.  He says the school has a number of online course now,  but that is just the beginning.  Troy U. hopes to eventually offer just about all of its course online.  He was especially proud of  Troy’s program of teaching America’s active duty military personnel,  commenting that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are now taking online courses.  

While he did emphasize academics, he also made it clear that college life is about a lot more.  “It is where young people start deciding who they really are,  what they plan to do in life, and quite often meet their life-partners.” 

And, while he didn’t concentrate on athletics, he did make it clear how important athletic programs are for students.  He said coaches are primarily teachers, mentors who have a tremendous responsibility of instilling the proper values in their students, not just winning,  but being responsible human beings.

When he did get around to discussing athletics, he did admit that some coaches make millions of dollars a year, and that includes both Auburn and Alabama.  But, he said,  if a coach is in it just for the money, he is not the type of coach that Troy wants.  He said when Troy learns that an applicant says he is in it for the money, Troy looses interest in that applicant.  Troy wants coaches that are in it because they love the game and they love positively molding young people.

Afterwards I asked him what his head football coach makes.  He said, “$300,000.”  I said, “Why is he making that when coaches at other schools, schools like Alabama and Auburn,  are making millions?”

He explained that Alabama and Auburn are SEC teams,  and making millions for coaches on those teams is standard.  However, Troy is a Sun Belt Conference team and his coach, Larry Blakeney, is making a top salary for that division.  No doubt, he should, because he is the winningest coach in Troy U’s history,  and the fourth winningest coach in state history, only behind “Bear” Bryant,  Cleve Abott, and Shug Jordan.

“Isn’t the tail waging the dog when so much money is being spent on athletics, money that should on academics?”

He said that school teams pull in millions of dollars for the schools, and that the money doesn’t just go for athletic programs, but also for academic buildings, etc.  Some it goes to the huge, nationally honored,  Sound of the South Band that plays for the halftime ceremonies. He added that academics is the top priority for schools, and that athletic programs are the tail of the school.

Maybe so, but when that tail wags,  mammoth stadiums fill up,  and millions of folks sit in front of their television sets to watch.  Millions of dollars are wagered on outcomes,  and many conversations are dominated for days by what happened on the football field.

Troy University has campuses in Troy, Dothan,  Phenix City, and Montgomery in Alabama,  and facilities in 14 other states, including one in Atlanta.  It also has facilities in nine other countries.