After a hiatus of over 30 years, Maryville College once again has an official pep band playing at sporting events. After the band’s reemergence at last year’s homecoming game, they have spent this semester playing at every home football game. As this year’s homecoming game approaches, it’s interesting to look back at the pep band and the long history of band associations at Maryville College.
The first instance of a marching band at Maryville College was in 1936. In the 1950s, it came to be known as the Highlander Band. Adorned in kilts, they played regularly until the late 80s, when it dissolved. Highlander Band alumnus Dave Conklin said, “The band was very active, very large, and added a lot to college life.” As Conklin recollects, the band was made of about 60 men and women in the mid-60s. The band marched at games, played in parades and even went to the Rocket Bowl with the football team in 1962. However, it eventually lacked interest and interaction, and the band was lost.
After the dissolution of the Highlander Band, there were some efforts to restart a marching or pep band, but none that were successful in the long run. That is until Dr. Eric Simpson decided to start the Tartan Band program in 2016. Simpson said of his decision to start up this group, “I think that there’s nothing quite like a student ensemble experience…I wanted students to have those sorts of experiences.”
Though Tartan Band was formed in 2016, the first time they performed at games was at the 2021 homecoming game. The traditions of the Highlander Band were long gone, and though there was an unofficial student affairs pep band in the late 2000s, they didn’t establish any Maryville College traditions for the Tartan Band to adopt for the game.
Simpson said, “We found ourselves in a situation where there weren’t traditions that were already in existence, so we got to make some up.” Things like movements for a fight song, how the band plays after a touchdown, and what they do at kickoff were all created by students last homecoming, making new traditions for Scots football fans to recognize.
Drawing from last year’s momentum, the Tartan Band has played at every home football game this year. The students in Tartan Band learned over 20 charts of music and adapted their schedules to be able to aptly practice for the games. However, it seems that this work is also accompanied by strong camaraderie. Simpson said the band has a meal together before every game, goes to the games together, and works together to adapt and create a meaningful experience for the fans.
Simpson said, “The main thing throughout this whole process that has been important to me and the rest of the band was to do this well. We’re Maryville College, and the things we put out there are going to represent the college in a positive way.” He affirmed that an important aspect of their job was to make a cohesive experience for the fans. The main goal of the Tartan Band is to add a positive atmosphere to the games, and it seems that they are being received wonderfully by fans.
When asked what he sees in the future for Tartan Band, Simpson replied, “Well, more fun. We’re gonna continue to have a really good time.” He anticipates growth in the band, potentially doubling their number from 30 to 60. At some point, he hopes the band will march on the field and be able to contribute to other campus events.
The Tartan Band received initial funding from the College to revive itself, and now fundraisers and alumni, like Conklin, have raised $175,000 of their $250,000 goal to endow the band. After this period of great stagnation in the Maryville College band program, it seems that there is hope in the future for many generations of Scots to cheer along with the Tartan Band.