Carolina Band

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Carolina Band
SchoolUniversity of South Carolina
LocationColumbia, South Carolina, United States
ConferenceSoutheastern Conference
DirectorDr. Jay Jacobs
Associate DirectorDr. Quintus Wrighten
Members397 (2017)
Fight song"The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way"
The uniform is a white jacket with garnet and black trimmed in silver embroidery. The back of the uniform is a large garnet panel embroidered in silver with the official university logo. The uniform has two pant options, white or black, trimmed with a garnet stripe down the side. The shako is Garnet with white trim, the university logo in silver, and a white plume.

The Carolina Band, or the Mighty Sound of the Southeast, is the official marching band of the University of South Carolina. This 400-member marching band performs at all South Carolina Gamecocks football home games played at Williams-Brice Stadium, as well as neutral site games, bowl games, all games against Clemson, where both the Carolina Band and Clemson's Tiger Band both perform at half time regardless of which school is hosting on a given year.

The band sends smaller pep bands to go to regular season away games where the full band isn't needed. The Carolina Band has also performed in exhibition at local high school marching band competitions and at SCBDA State Championships. In 2024, the Carolina Band will perform at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[1][2]

Band Components[edit]

The Carolina Band is made up of various components, including brass and woodwinds, drumline, colorguard, coquettes, and feature twirlers. Though all members of the band audition, the drumline, guard, coquettes, and twirlers are the most competitive.


Brass and Woodwinds make up the majority of the Carolina Band. The Carolina Band fields piccolos, clarinets, alto and tenor saxes, trumpets, mellophones, baritones, and sousaphones.

The Carolina Band Drumline (CBDL) performs with the marching band as well as on their own in the spring. The drumline consists of snares, tenors, basses and cymbals. In 2023, the drumline added a multis section to prepare drummers to play snare and tenors.[3]


The Carolina Colorguard is a major visual component of the band. In addition to flags, guard is seen spinning rifles and sabres and performing choreography.[4]

The Carolina Coquettes is the main dance component of the band. They utilize pom poms and are often seen performing with the entire band and with the drumline.[5]

The Carolina Band Feature Twirlers twirl batons and are heavily featured by the band, and have a history of winning regional, state, national, and world titles.[6]


The Carolina Band began as a student-initiated organization in 1920, when the request to organize a band was granted by the Board of Trustees. The first band was formed with fewer than 20 students in September 1921 under the direction of a student (Mr. Martin).[7]

  • 1922: After the departure of Martin, James C. Lanham, another student at USC, assumed the director position through the 1922–23 school year.
  • 1923: George Olson was appointed director of the band, Olson was the first faculty member in charge of the band (was Dean of the School of Commerce). With 23 years, Olson was the longest serving director of the marching band itself. (Copenhaver is the longest serving overall director of bands; however he only directly oversaw the marching band for 21 years).

The World War II years (to 1945)[edit]

Still under the direction of Olson, the band began to increasingly take on the appearance and the sound of a marching band. Olson's band were of the first to wear uniforms in the school colors and he offered participating students instruments for use in the band. Band membership totaled around 50 members.

Additionally, as the United States was engaged in the second world war, many members were lost from the university and the band to active duty requirements for World War II. In 1941, the formerly all-male band changed its policies to allow females into its members. The first female members only served as majorettes. Later, female members assumed positions as marching members of the band.[7]

After World War II & the 1950s[edit]

After World War II, the band began to develop more as a "show" band, with more elaborate pre-game and halftime shows. There were four different directors between 1946 and 1959.[7]

  • 1946: Louis Albert Fink continued the V-12 Naval ROTC band style which was used by Olson in the latter part of his term. Additionally, the band began to travel to football games away from Columbia.
  • 1950: Richard H. Zimmermann served as director through 1955. Membership reached a peak of 82 members.
  • 1955: Donald L. Banschbach succeeded Zimmermann during the first time that Air Force ROTC, Navy ROTC and University bands all operating independently of each other.
  • 1956: Pat Garnett is known most widely for eliminating the majorettes from the band. He suffered a stroke in 1958 and ended his term as director in 1959.

1960s and 1970s[edit]

The style of the Carolina Band can be traced to the appointment of James D. Pritchard as band director in 1959. Though a regimental marching band, Pritchard brought back the majorettes and feature twirlers, who had been absent from the shows of the preceding few years. Pritchard also acquired a recording studio, more storage & practice areas and created the "Coquettes", the official dance team of the marching band.[7]

Pritchard obtained a band arrangement of the song Step to the Rear from the Broadway musical How Now, Dow Jones in 1968 and the marching band played the song at the first game of the 1968 season. It caught the ear of Coach Paul Dietzel who contacted Pritchard about making it the official fight song of the University to replace the original fight song, Carolina Let Your Voices Ring. Dietzel wrote the lyrics for the song, but asked that he remain anonymous because knowledge that the football coach wrote the lyrics might render it unacceptable to the basketball program. The song was officially introduced on November 16, 1968 prior to the football game against Virginia Tech.[8]

  • 1969: Ralph Wahl succeeded Pritchard with a four-year tenure. During this time, Wahl tripled the size of the Carolina Band to 350 members (which was the largest at that time).
  • 1973: Thomas O'Neal, served as director for two years. O'Neal brought the band back under the jurisdiction of the Music Department. The tradition of post-game concerts by the Carolina Band began at this time.

Mid 1970s-1990[edit]

In 1976, James K. Copenhaver, the longest-serving Director of Bands, succeeded O'Neal. Copenhaver created the most well-known Carolina Band pregame show, which was performed through the end of the 2010 season. He also is responsible for the tradition of always having national or world champion twirlers as a part of the band.

The SEC years (1990–present)[edit]

The Gamecocks were accepted as a member institution of the Southeastern Conference on September 25, 1990. They began to play during the 1992 season. One change included the addition of a third band director. Under this organizational structure, the Director of Bands became responsible for administering the entire band program. The various athletic bands in the program were then overseen by an Associate and Assistant Director of Bands.

The new Assistant Director of Bands became the Director of Athletic Bands, which included direct oversight and instruction of the University of South Carolina Marching Band and pep bands. The first person to hold this position was Dr. David O' Shields. From 1995 until 2006, Dr. O'Shields's served as Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands at USC. O'Shields' tenure is highlighted by the demolition of the former Band Hall, the move to an Interim Band Hall, and the creation of plans for the new $9.8 million band facility complex which later opened in April 2009.

George Brozak became the new Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands in 2006. His tenure (2006–2009) leading the marching band is noted by the offering of scholarships for all Carolina Band members for the first time.

Steve McKeithen was hired as Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands from 2009 until 2011.

Following James Copenhaver's retirement in 2010, Dr. Scott Weiss was appointed Director of Bands at the University of South Carolina.

Rebecca Phillips was appointed Director of Athletic Bands in 2011 officially becoming the first Associate Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands with a new Assistant Director of Bands/Assistant Director of Athletic Bands Mr. Jayme Taylor. For the 2014 season, Mr. Taylor served as the Interim Associate Director of Bands and Director of the Carolina Band along with Interim Assistant Director Mr. Stephen Meyer.

Starting with the 2015 season, Dr. Cormac Cannon became the new Associate Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands and Director of the Carolina Band. In 2017, Dr. Tonya Mitchell-Spradlin was appointed Assistant Director of Bands/Associate Director of Athletic Bands.

Following Dr. Cormac Cannon's appointment as Director of Bands at USC in 2019, Dr. Jay Jacobs was appointed the new Associate Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands. In 2021, Dr. Quintus F. Wrighten, Jr. was appointed Assistant Director of Bands/Associate Director of Athletic Bands.[9]

On September 2nd, 2023, fthe Carolina Band announced at halftime that they had been invited to perform in the 2024 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[1][2]



The Carolina Band starts out their traditional pregame show marching from the sidelines to the end zone, and playing the Gridiron Fanfare. The band then performs Carolina Let Your Voices Ring (colloquially known as "Old Fight") ending in a set resembling the palmetto and gates symbol. Then, the band performs the national anthem and the school's alma mater, We Hail Thee Carolina. Then, they play their fight song The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way, an arrangement of Elmer Bernstein's Step to the Rear, making a "USC" set followed by a march arrangement of We Hail Thee Carolina called the Garnet and Black March or "Alma Marcher". After this, the band plays Go Carolina forming the word "Carolina", and then play a tag and begin a sequence to the tunnel set. After the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey is played over the loudspeakers, the football team rushes out and the band plays the fightsong, and marches off the field to get ready to play in the stands.[10]


The home of the Carolina Band is the Copenhaver Band Hall, located on the University of South Carolina campus at 324 Sumter St. On April 26, 2009, the University of South Carolina opened a facility dedicated to its 300-member marching band and a newly accredited dance program. The $9.8 million complex features practice areas, rehearsal rooms, storage for band instruments/uniforms and an adjacent 110-yard long practice field complete with field lighting and a three-story observation tower. The main level building plan is organized around a series of large practice areas and dance studios along the field-side to the north. Smaller offices and support spaces are located to the south. In 2021, the band started rehearsing in the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Practice Facility for Saturday rehearsals before home games.

USC Band Hall in Snow..
Carolina Band practice field covered in snow

Pep bands[edit]

The University of South Carolina has several other athletic bands tied to and under the same directors as the Carolina Band. Before home games, the band sends tailgate takeover bands to the stadium fairgrounds, Gamecock Park, and the Cockaboose.

The Carolina Basketball Band plays at Gamecocks Men's and Women's Basketball home games as well as post-season tournaments. The Basketball band is divided into three groups named "Assembly Street", "Greene Street", and "Sumter Street". The groups rotate responsibilities with two at a time at home games in Colonial Life Arena and one group at a time at both SEC and NCAA tournaments.[11] There is also a separate volleyball band plays at home women's volleyball games.



  1. ^ a b "A Gamecock first: Carolina Band to perform at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade".
  2. ^ a b "USC's Carolina Band invited to 2024 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade". Cola Daily. 2023-09-10. Retrieved 2023-09-13.
  3. ^ "Carolina Band Drumline - School of Music | University of South Carolina". Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  4. ^ "Carolina Colorguard - School of Music | University of South Carolina". Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  5. ^ "Coquettes - School of Music | University of South Carolina". Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  6. ^ "Feature Twirlers - School of Music | University of South Carolina". Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  7. ^ a b c d "Carolina Band Website". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  8. ^ "Step to the Rear, or The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way, Sheet Music :: Carolina Bands Collection".
  9. ^ "Meet the newest faculty to join the School of Music". School of Music. Retrieved 2023-07-29.
  10. ^ Carolina Band Pregame 2016, retrieved 2023-09-06
  11. ^ "Carolina Basketball Band - School of Music | University of South Carolina". Retrieved 2023-09-06.

External links[edit]