Marching band alumni reconnect during Red and White Week

Power Sound of the South alumni celebrated Red and White Week by coming home to tailgate and march during the homecoming football game with their former bandmates, current band members, and in some cases, the several generations of band alumni in between. 

On Nov. 8 and 9, the Department of Music hosted a reunion of marching band alumni which included a homecoming parade watch party on Friday evening, a rehearsal with the band on Saturday, a pre-game tailgate party and a chance to join the band on the field for the halftime performance. More than 120 alumni returned, and many chose to dust off their instruments, batons, or flags to perform Queen hits and the NC State Fight Song with the current band.  

“Getting to march on the field at Carter Finley Stadium was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend,” said Christinia Hicks, B.S. in Animal Science ‘05 and DVM ‘10, who played the piccolo and cymbals in the marching band during her time as an undergrad. “I always loved NC State, but truly felt at home there while marching on the field with my band family.”

Other alums agreed that being back on the field was the highlight of the experience. Tom Avery, ‘75 and a trumpet player in the band, described it as both a thrill and a rush. “I felt so comfortable being in this kind of setting–almost as if I had never left it so many years ago,” said Avery.  

For Tom Johnson, B.S. in Economics ‘74 and a fellow trumpet player, the weekend had many highlights. “First and foremost was hearing and seeing the sound, power and size of the current band,” said Johnson. “The practice with the band before the game was a great experience and brought back a lot of fond memories. Then there was the connection among old friends of my era and new friendships with other alumni from different time frames, and current band members. What made it fun and easy to connect was the common thread we all had of being in the band at N.C. State, regardless of when it happened.”

Those connections and friendships were what drew alumni back to Raleigh for the event. “Probably the biggest impact that my time in the NC State Band program has made is that I have a wide range of alumni friends from all areas of academic studies,” Avery said. “From Ag and Life Sciences to Textiles–and every discipline in between–I was able to meet them as a student [in the band] and am able to call them my friends today.”

For Johnson, one marching band friendship has been particularly integral to his life. “Well, if meeting your wife in band and being married for 44 years counts, I guess you could say it shaped me quite a lot,” he said. “In addition, the music lessons we both learned are employed to this day with our playing in a small church orchestra. All three of our children are accomplished musicians–one attended NC State as a Park Scholar and minored in viola performance. We fostered the love of music [in them] from the positive experiences we had at NC State.”

The experience in the band has led Hicks to continue making music part of her life today. “To say that the marching band impacted my life and helped shape who I am today would be a colossal understatement,” she said. “Not only do I have countless wonderful memories and lifelong friendships, but I learned so much as well…The encouragement mixed with hard work and discipline helped me to be a stronger, more confident woman. It goes without saying that my musical abilities were pushed and advanced. To this day, I continue to play in various settings and am more comfortable playing in public, whether solo or with a group. Without this opportunity, I am not sure that I would have kept music as such a central part of my life and I am truly thankful for the experience!”

Director of Bands Paul Garcia tells the seniors in the band every year that they are laying the foundation for future generations of the band, just as the alumni who came before did for them. In reflecting on the reunion, he said his perspective on what it meant to him to have everyone return has evolved. “Before the event, I looked at it as an opportunity to reconnect alums with the program, because it’s been a while since our last reunion,” said Garcia. “During the event when I was talking to the alums and seeing their faces and hearing their stories, seeing people hug who haven’t seen each other in years, it was a reminder of the family we are. And now looking back on it, I think it’s reignited a fire in the alums to want to come home and reconnect with a part of their NC State experience that gave them a very powerful emotional connection to this institution. And it’s all through band.”

If you would like to honor your marching band experience through an annual gift to the Athletic Bands Endowment Fund, and support current and future student-musicians at NC State, visit https://music.arts.ncsu.edu/giving/.