When UT’s Pride of the Southland Band takes the field this fall, two women will be front and center.
Junior Rebecca Percy of Trussville, Alabama, is the drum major—only the third woman to hold the position. Senior Laiton Pigg is starting her second year as assistant drum major. This is the first time in the marching band’s 148-year history that the band has two female leaders.
“Both of these students worked very hard to be chosen for their positions,” said Donald Ryder, director of bands. “So far, both the head drum major and the assistant have done an excellent job.”
Percy said she understands the responsibility that comes with the job of being drum major.
“I will play a huge role in continuing the unparalleled traditions of the Pride of the Southland Marching Band,” she said. “I am honored to have earned this position, seeing as the Pride is one of the most respected organizations in the country.”
Since being founded in 1869, the Pride of the Southland Band has established itself as one of the most prestigious university band programs in the country. The organization has 350 members, with the largest group being freshmen, and has performed across the country in a variety of venues, including weekly performances at home football games in Neyland Stadium and participation in 15 presidential inaugurations.
Percy said she became interested in music at around the age of six, when she started taking piano lessons. She played flute in both her middle school and high school bands. She has been a member of the Pride of the Southland Band for the past two years.
Percy is double majoring in flute performance and mathematics. She is interested in pursuing a music career, perhaps as a flutist or wind conductor. She is also an ambassador for the Chancellor’s Honors Program, charged with helping prospective students learn about the honors program.
To become drum major, Percy had to interview with the band directors, perform the famous strut across the field, conduct an audition in front of the entire band, and conduct the band during a portion of the Orange and White game in Neyland Stadium this past spring.
The Pride of the Southland Band is a major time commitment. Rehearsals started two weeks before classes began. Once classes began, members practice four days a week for one to two hours.
On top of all these rehearsals, Percy has additional responsibilities as drum major.
She worked at all band orientation sessions. She takes conducting lessons, practices the pregame drill, and coordinates with the band’s leadership team.
During rehearsals, she gives instructions and conducts from the ladder. During games, she chooses what songs the band will play and when.
And the responsibilities don’t stop there.
“I am representing my fellow band members and the university at all times, not just when I’m in uniform,” she said.