The “Mighty Sound of the Southeast” began 100 years ago on Sept. 25 when a group of less than 20 students, led by student director Mr. Martin, gained approval from the board of trustees to organize.
At one point, the Carolina Band reached over 400 members. It currently has roughly 300, and these numbers include students in "over 65 academic majors and 22 states," according to the band website. Over the past 100 years, and more recently, the band has changed culture, gotten more resources and increased student leadership.
"We give incredible perspective to what the band has accomplished in difficult and challenging times and how it continues to grow,” Jay Jacobs, director of athletic bands, said.
Band practices have gotten a lot easier with the 2016 addition of a new turf field that has the same markings as Williams-Brice Stadium on it.
“That was a great improvement for the band,” director of bands Cormac Cannon said. “The previous outdoor practice field was problematic in its construction, and it would flood, and it was difficult for the students to march if it rained, really, at all.”
To get more engagement between band students and fans, the directors added tailgate takeovers. During these "takeovers," smaller sections of the band would play around Williams-Brice Stadium on game day.
“It really makes a full game day experience for them,” Jacobs said. “It’s great for the students to be interactive with the fans, too.”
Scott Weiss, the director of bands from 2009 to 2019, said a lot of changes were made to game day performances in 2011.
Previously, the band would play the same show for a few weeks, playing on one side of the stadium or the other.
The halftime performance then turned into a 360-degree show. Each performance became what Weiss said were “one-week wonders,” or shows that the band could learn in a week, perform on game day and never use again.
Weiss turned around the performative aspect of the band in addition to some cultural ones, such as inattention to band students.
In fall 2010, band members were expected to perform in wool uniforms and were not provided with adequate meals or proper transportation, Weiss said.
"They got a hot dog and an apple riding in a un-air-conditioned school bus to the game," Weiss said. “We were able to take care of the students in the band in a much better way as a result of the infusion of money from President Pastides.”
Today, the Carolina Band is introduced over the loudspeakers at the Williams-Brice Stadium by the voice of the Carolina Band, Kirk Randazzo, a South Carolina and band alumnus.
All band members receive scholarships today, which is not something Randazzo had during his time in the band.
"I think the change has been absolutely tremendous. I think it's been an incredibly positive development for the band," Randazzo said.
With these changes, Weiss said students were also given increasingly more say in the organization.
“When we hired Dr. Cannon, that was even something that even in his interview, I said, ‘The next step for the Carolina Band is to put it in the hands of the student leaders,’ and he did a beautiful job of getting the student buy-in 100% solidified,” Weiss said.
Members of the Coquettes, the dance team that performs with the band, have recently been more involved in the group’s own decision making.
Coquettes co-captain Isabel Bowen said in the past, the Coquettes did not have much say in the performances or outfits. Now, they work with faculty and student band leaders.
“The Coquettes, because what they do is so different than so many of the other sections of the band, it would be easy for them to be an afterthought for the band, and the thing that we did purposefully was, we made sure they were integral to what we were doing," Weiss said. "So, they were written into the drill, and they were made a focal point of what we were doing.”
But now, Bowen said she understands the importance of carrying on the Coquette team and elevating it to where it is now.
"I'm a part of the Coquettes dance team because I'm carrying the legacy of the girls that came before me," third-year marine science student Bowen said.
That legacy started back in 1941, when women were first allowed to join the band. Now, for the first time in 20 years, all three drum majors are women. Fifth-year music education student Kylie Doblier is one of them.
"I played in a church orchestra with the first female drum major of the Carolina Band," Doblier said. "It's also really fun to be able see that the Carolina Band does, for the most, have a really long history of excellence."