The West Virginia University band program was founded in 1901 by Walter Mestrezat. It has grown into a diverse organization that includes a wind symphony, wind ensemble, concert band, varsity band (a pep band), and other ensembles.
The largest and most visible of the WVU bands is the Mountaineer Marching Band, the ‘‘Pride of West Virginia.’’ Announcer Jack Fleming called it that during the 1972 Peach Bowl broadcast, and the name stuck. Don Wilcox had just been named director of bands, and he guided them to national prominence. In 1997, the Pride of West Virginia received the Sudler Trophy as the nation’s number one college marching band. At the end of that season, Wilcox turned the directorship of the marching band over to his assistant, John Hendricks.
The Pride has had 11 directors. Mestrezat served 37 years and Wilcox 27. Both were known for their innovations. The marching band became coed about the time Don Wilcox took charge, and during his tenure, the band included a blind member, Clara Pingley.
The Pride has grown from an all-male contingent of eight members to an inclusive group of nearly 400 members. Before each home game, the band presents a popular show that includes two WVU fight songs, “Fight Mountaineers” and “Hail West Virginia”; Aaron Copland’s “Simple Gifts”; John Denver’s “Country Roads”; and “Mountain Dew.” In 2001, the band celebrated its 100th birthday. During the homecoming game, the band was joined on the field by more than 500 alumni. The marching band performs about 20 times a year. The band has performed around the country at numerous bowl games, including the Gator Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl.
Jay Drury became director of the marching band in 2005.
This Article was written by Norman Julian
Last Revised on June 10, 2013
Wilcox, Don. . Jan. 2000.