Smith's band: Marching Cavs debut at UNC game

To some, the September 11 match-up against North Carolina will be the most riveting UVA football game in decades.

But it has nothing to do with the team.

This fall brings the debut of the Marching Cavaliers, the product of years of official unease with its predecessor, the Pep Band.

Thanks in large part to a massive donation from alumnus Carl Smith, the music department has branched out to collaborate with the athletic department to provide musical entertainment at athletic events.

Until this year, UVA was the only ACC school without a marching band. Now– with the jilted members of the Pep Band pledging to continue as a student group even without the athletic department's blessing– it has two.

As a recent arrival at UVA, associate director of bands Douglas Phillips says he doesn't know much about the drama which preceded him, nor does he particularly care to learn about it. "We were brought here to do a job," Phillips says, "and that's what we're going to focus on."

He's certainly got plenty of other things to worry about. Along with the director, Bill Pease, who is likewise a fresh import, Phillips is currently tangled up in the orchestration of a preparatory band camp which began on August 18, a task made all the more formidable by the fact that he's essentially piloting a brand new program in the process.

"We're having a lot of rehearsals as a full ensemble and sectionals, getting to learn the pre-game music," says Phillips. With 170 members and plans for a totally different halftime show at each game, there's a lot to do.

Ten of those members aren't exactly– well, marching "Cavaliers." To fill its ranks, UVA has formed a partnership with Piedmont Virginia Community College. "The goal is to foster the relationship with the community college, almost like a preparatory thing," says Phillips. "A lot of those students want to come to UVA."

Eventually, they'll find a home in UVA's proposed $47-million performing arts center. Benefactor (and former football star) Smith and his wife also gave $22 million for that 100,000-square-foot megaplex to be located on Emmet Street.

At a press conference last fall, director Pease told the Roanoke Times his band vision: "I want it to be exciting, loud, in your face."

Whatever the sound, the Marching Cavaliers will straddle an odd gap between art, sport, and entertainment. Phillips predicts a high degree of overlap between the new band and the existing performance ensembles in UVA's McIntire Department of Music.

"Of the people who are auditioning" to play at UVA, says Phillips, "the majority are planning to do the marching band. They want to do both, and they can do both."

It remains to be seen just how many familiar marching band tunes will be showing up in the Marching Cavaliers' routine.

"Some places you have cookie-cutter marching bands," says Phillips, seemingly dismissing staples like the Macarena and the Star Wars Imperial March.

"What you hear pre-game are going to be songs with a history at UVA," says Phillips. "We did some research and found some old song books, songs that the Glee Club would have done."

"They're really great songs," he concludes. "They're things that are the University of Virginia's as opposed to things that we're trying to impose. We want to do it from the inside out. We want to do something that's uniquely UVA."

Cavalier sugardaddy: Gridiron and funding star Carl Smith in 2000


Marching Cavaliers director Bill Pease.