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History of the UT Bands

The University of Tennessee Marching Band, known as the “Pride of the Southland,” has represented The University of Tennessee and the State of Tennessee since its initial organization following the Civil War.  What began as a small, all-male band attached to the Military Department on the Knoxville campus has grown to a 415 member university marching band known worldwide for its outstanding musical performance and precision marching.  It is also one of the oldest and most prestigious collegiate band programs in the world.

        The University of Tennessee Band was first organized as a corps of cadets in 1869.  The band’s instrumentation was primarily cornets, and was often headed by a cadet leader.  In 1892, Ernest H. Garratt was appointed the band’s first official bandmaster.  Two years later, Mr. Garratt was replaced by Charles P. Garratt.  At the turn of the century, William A. Knabe took over leadership of the band, and held the position of bandmaster until his death in 1914. It was during this time that in 1902 the band made its first appearance at a football game when UT played Sewanee.  UT won 6 to 0!  By 1917, the band, wearing WWI style uniforms, had 30 members, and was under the leadership of William Crouch.  In 1925, Crouch was replaced by Ernest W. Hall. During Hall’s tenure, the band grew to over 80 members.  The 1940’s brought considerable change to the band.  Walter Ryba was named the new director, and women musicians marched with the band.  The half-time shows became theme oriented and included guest artists.  Major Ryba, a former member of the John Philip Sousa Band, served for two decades as UT’s director.  It was during this time that Ed Harris, sports reporter for the Knoxville Journal, dubbed the band as the “Pride of the Southland.”

        With Ryba’s retirement at the end of 1960, a new era in the band’s history began.  For the next three decades, the band, under the direction of Dr. WJ Julian grew in size, prestige, and reputation.  The band was moved from ROTC to the College of Education, and during his first year, Dr. Julian designed new uniforms for the band.  The look of these uniforms remain a tradition at The University of Tennessee.  By 1964, the band had grown to over 140 members.  Under Dr. Julian, the band was revolutionized in style and appearance, and known not only for its level of performance, but also as an innovator of the “circle-drill.”  In 1972, Dr. Julian introduced a new song to the fans at Neyland Stadium which immediately became the school’s unofficial fight song – “Rocky Top!”  Countless traditions were established under Julian’s leadership including the opening of the “T” for the football team at every Pregame ceremony.

             In 1997 Dr. Gary Sousa was appointed Director of Bands, followed by Dr. Donald Ryder, who in 2015 was appointed the tenth Director of Bands, continuing the long tradition of excellence.  With Dr. Ryder’s retirement in 2022, Dr. John Zastoupil joined the faculty as the Director of Bands.  Dr. Michael Stewart continued as Associate Director of Bands/Director of Marching and Athletic Bands, with Dr. Fuller Lyon serving as Assistant Director of Bands/Associate Director of Marching & Athletic Bands. During this era, the Pride expanded it’s “in game” experience and continued to uphold the great UT Traditions.

The UT Concert Bands (Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band and Concert Band) have performed at conferences of the American Bandmasters Association, the College Band Directors National Association, National Band Association, and the Music Educators National Conference, as well as in major concert halls across the country.

The UT Pep Bands perform regularly at selected football games, men’s and women’s basketball games and volleyball matches.

The Pride of the Southland Band’s national reputation for excellence is due in part to its countless television appearances in the last fifty years. Besides representing the State of Tennessee in 15 Presidential inaugurations (a record unmatched by any civilian organization), the band has appeared at over 50 bowl games including the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Peach Bowl, Sun Bowl, Hall of Fame Bowl and the 1998 National Championship Fiesta Bowl. When The University of Tennessee Marching Band takes the field, the fans, alumni, and student reactions indicate that it is not only the Pride of all Tennesseans, but truly the “Pride of the Southland!”

The University of Tennessee Bands

University of Tennessee Bands
1741 Volunteer Blvd.
227 Natalie L. Haslam Music Center
Knoxville, TN 37996-2605
Phone: 865-974-5031