By Margaret Dent
At the start of the fall semester, Athletic Director Keith Carter and Chancellor Glenn Boyce asked the University of Mississippi’s marching band, The Pride of the South, if they wanted to participate in fall sports. Their immediate response was, “We want to play.”
Senior drum major Dalton Gibson, who acts as an assistant director and conductor for the band, said the decision was unanimous. “We were overwhelmed with pride in our band,” Gibson said. “We asked every member if they wanted to opt-out of this fall semester and still receive the scholarship. As far as I know, not one member opted out.”
Every band member auditions for a spot and then is rewarded with a scholarship amount based on a variety of reasons such as seat or need, according to Gibson.
While the band plans on marching into their assigned section of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 26, it will be a far different game day experience than past years.
A typical fall for the band includes a rigorous practice schedule of two hours a day every weekday. This prepares the band for game days which usually include: the Walk of Champions, the grove show, stand music, then both pregame and halftime performances on the field.
The Southeastern Conference announced on their website what fall games would look like inside the stadiums. These guidelines included a lot of new rules about the conference’s bands. For example, only essential people such as players, coaches, and selected media will be allowed on the sidelines during games. This means the band will no longer be able to perform both the pregame and halftime performances. The Ole Miss band will perform solely in the stands for the length of the football games.
Another change for the band will be the loss of traveling to other SEC schools to perform for halftime. “We would love to go see other schools and their bands too. Of course, there were the games, like Alabama, that everyone would look forward to performing at all summer,” Gibson said. The band would sign up for whatever away game they were able and willing to travel to.
With no tailgating allowed for this football season, the Pride of the South is losing both the Grove show and the Walk of Champions. Junior clarinet player Katie-Rose O’Quinn said that this is the part she will miss the most.
“The Grove show is the best part of the day for me,” O’Quinn said. “The fans are right there with us cheering us on and making us feel appreciated.”
According to O’Quinn, the band is still marching on and ready if the guidelines change to allow on-field performances.
“We are still practicing half-time routines because no one knows what this fall will bring,” O’Quinn said. “We are just all so grateful to be playing at all when other teams across the country are not even having a season.”
Janiah Sanders, a sophomore member of the color guard, also says that her peers are making the best of the current circumstances.
“It is different and it is hard. But we have an amazing staff that is keeping things interesting and keeping our spirits high,” Sanders said. “Her fellow color guard members have decided to be thankful that they get to be at the games and perform whatever they can.”
The Ole Miss band has adapted to the new stadium capacity rule by splitting the band in two, Band 1 and Band 2. These two bands were split up at random to account for the right number of members allowed in the stadium on game day. Band 1 and Band 2 will rotate for each home game with both having an average of 130 members in each group which makes up around 260 members for the fall of 2020. This means that each band performs at two games with the last game, the Egg Bowl, still up in the air.
Katie-Rose O’Quinn also helps lead a social media movement of raising funds for a new practice field for the band. The Pride of the South is not funded by the Athletics Department and relies on donations to keep going. The University of Mississippi and Vanderbilt are the only two schools in the SEC to not have a turf practice field for the school band.
“We need a new practice field. Ours is muddy when it rains and filled with fire ants in the heat,” O’Quinn said.
Donations to the band and a new practice field can be given at this link: https://umfoundation.givingfuel.com/band?selectFund=00066