The Pride of the Southland Band is one of the most well-known and renowned bands in the entire country. Since its founding in 1869, the band has played an important role in continuing the Volunteer spirit.
Beginning in the 1940s as men went off to war, women received the opportunity to play in the band for the first time.
According to Dr. Stewart, the head band director, he estimates roughly 45% of the current band is female.
“We have had a total of four female drum majors over the years, and all four will return this year (2023) to lead the alumni band at homecoming,” Stewart said.
Julia Boylan, who was the Drum Major for the last three years (2020-2022), shared that it was the most rewarding experience and she was respected just as equally as her male predecessor.
While most people were accepting and did not question Boylan holding this position it did surprise some.
“The Drum Major is still viewed as a masculine position. There is little beauty or grace in what I do. The acrobatics include a powerful strut, a military-style salute and a dramatic back bend. I embraced the added challenge and worked hard to make sure that I didn't just meet the bar, but actually raised the bar,” Boylan said.
Before her graduation in December 2022 with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering and a minor in Applied Music, Boylan experienced monumental moments in UT history. These memories include the goalposts being torn down after the Alabama game, conducting the band with Hendon Hooker after the last home game and finally winning the Orange Bowl in Miami.
Her advice to other students wanting to pursue music is balance. When she became tired or burnt out from engineering she would use music as an outlet and vice versa when music was too much.
Sophomore, Sarah Cox, has played the piccolo since high school and flute since fourth grade.
Cox had been in music programs for most of her life, so joining the band at UTK was an obvious choice. By doing so, she found friends that share similar interests and a passion for music.
“Being in the band, let alone a musical section predominantly built up of women, there are lots of female peers and friends who I can go to, work with and more. Our amazing band directors are very open about working together as a whole, not as singular people,” Cox said.
Sophomore, Kiernan Stuppy is a fellow piccolo and flute player of six and nine years respectively. Having been a member of her high school's marching band she wanted to continue marching through her college career, especially with such a prestigious program.
“I have never really seen myself as a ‘woman in band’ because I have never had to. The program is so accepting and would never discriminate [against] someone for being a woman. We do everything as a program and no one is ever left out,” Stuppy said.
Stuppy recommends any female music majors join the Women in Music club. They invite female guest speakers to share their accomplishments and offer connections that may be helpful in the future.
Abi Long, the Head Majorette for the last year, will return this season as she begins her law school career here at UTK after graduating in May with a master's in social work.
Long has been dancing and twirling competitively since she was five years old and has won numerous state, regional and national titles. Since she was young, she knew her dream was to come to the University of Tennessee and be a majorette.
“Being in a position that I have worked so hard for my entire life is a very rewarding feeling. I truly am the luckiest person on the planet to get to do what I love in Neyland Stadium every week and have the opportunity to lead this team and make it the best it can be,” Long said.
She explained that her experience in the band has been nothing but positive. Unlike all of the other sections of the band, the majorettes section is entirely women. Long hopes to be a role model and inspire young twirlers to follow their dreams just as she has done.
The Pride of the Southland Band is a tight-knit community with a supportive and inclusive environment that promotes the success of all its members.