Video by Kody Kiser and Amy Jones/UK Public Relations and Marketing
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 30, 2012) — Fans attending University of Kentucky football games this season may have detected a few changes in the Wildcat Marching Band. Since this summer, the band has welcomed a new director, Scott-Lee Atchison, as well as several new musicians to the Commonwealth Stadium field. And this tradition is one that likely will only continue to grow.
Entertaining thousands of fans with spirited, high-energy performances, the Wildcat Marching Band has enjoyed a national reputation, being featured in national instrument ad campaigns and even Southern Living over the years. Their repertoire runs the gamut from jazz to contemporary pop hits, classic favorites and music from Broadway.
This year, in addition to a new leader and new field program, the band has also seen major growth, jumping in size approximately 30 percent with 50 new members on the field. The 2012-13 Wildcat Marching Band is about 230 members strong.
And Atchison would like to see the band even bigger.
"I'd like to see us up to 350 members within a couple years. There are bands that are bigger than that, but I think 350 is about as big as you ever want to be," Atchison said. "I'd like to see 500 audition for it every year, it'd be really nice to see 500 audition for it and take the top 350 and tell the other 150 thank you and work hard and try out next year."
Bands have long played an important part in the university community. The institution has fielded a band for more than 100 years. The first recorded marching band at UK was an unofficial "Cadet Band" led by Herman Trost, who had been a bandleader in Sherman's Army in the Civil War. Informally affiliated with military training, the band existed by 1893, and possibly as early as 1889.
Through its storied history, the Wildcat Marching Band has performed at the 1969 Presidential Inauguration of Richard M. Nixon, participated in bowl games, a World Series, and performed for the Cincinnati Bengals on several occasions. In 2008, the Wildcat Marching Band performed on an international stage participating in the televised opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup in Louisville, Ky.
Comprised of students from a myriad of majors at UK and Bluegrass Community and Technical College, the Wildcat Marching Band puts in several hours beyond their game day performance.
Students in the band are among the first to arrive on campus each fall arriving more than a week before move-in to hit Stoll Field in preparation for the season's first football game and K Week festivities.
"Before the first day of school we spend between 64 to 68 hours practicing and serving the university in some capacity," Atchison said.
Helping to make the band a success and continue to grow, each band member will put in more than 232 hours over the season.
"We do six hours of rehearsal a week, and then it's about an eight to 10 hour game day," said music education junior Rachel Hoiby, of Corinth, Texas.
Members of Wildcat Marching Band are the first to arrive and the last to leave at Commonwealth Stadium on game day.
"Game days are crazy long," said chemistry senior Bobby Barker, from Greensburg, Ky. "We have to be there four and a half to five hours before the game even kicks off."
Before each home game the band puts in rehearsal time and then they play — for tailgaters, at the Cat Walk for the football team's entrance, the parade, the Rally in the Alley, and at pre-game — all before a single second of the game transpires.
During the game, there isn't a moment to relax as the Wildcat Marching Band must keep fans in the game, as well as be ready to perform each time the football team scores and provide a half-time program.
"The football team really feeds off that energy, they really want us to bring it," Barker said.
The dedication to UK and to get bigger and better shouldn’t be surprising as many members of the Wildcat Marching Band participate for no compensation, just to be part of such an important tradition.
"Seventy percent of the marching band doesn't receive a single scholarship dollar to be there," Atchison said.
"They're doing it because they want to and they like to, and you just can't find a better group of friends," said Hoiby. "You can't find better people anywhere else. That makes marching band for me."
Atchison is no stranger to growing band programs. Prior to his appointment as director of Wildcat Marching Band at UK School of Music in the UK College of Fine Arts, Atchison served as the associate director of bands at Texas A&M University - Commerce, where he conducted the symphonic band and concert band and taught classes in music technology, music literature and marching band techniques, in addition to being the director of athletic bands. During his time at Texas A&M University – Commerce, Atchison oversaw significant growth of the marching band, more than doubling it in size and earning an invitation to perform at Texas UIL (University Interscholastic League) State Championships.
Atchison received his master's degree from the University of Tennessee and his bachelor's degree in music education from the University of North Texas. He recently completed his doctoral residency at the University of Washington and will soon complete the requirements for a doctoral degree in conducting. At the University of Washington, he studied instrumental conducting with Tim Salzman and trumpet with Allen Vizzutti and David Gordon. While at Washington, Atchison guest conducted the Wind Ensemble during their 2007 Japan Tour. At Tennessee, Atchison was a conducting student of Gary Sousa, David Stutzenberger and James Fellenbaum, and has had additional conducting study with John Whitwell, Eugene Corporon, Jerry Junkin, Jack Stamp, H. Robert Reynolds, Allan McMurray, Craig Kirchhoff, Richard Floyd, Frank Battisti, Ray Cramer and Robert Halseth. At North Texas he studied trumpet with Keith Johnson and Leonard Candelaria.
In 2007, Atchison joined the instructional staff for The Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps where he served as Brass Caption Head. He is currently the Brass Caption Head for The Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps from Rosemont, Ill., and serves as an active designer and clinician with marching bands and drum corps throughout the country. A Yamaha Performing Artist, Atchison is a contributing author for the book series "A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band (Volume IV)" where he collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Del Tredici on a chapter featuring his contribution to the wind band and American music.
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