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WVU boasts sizable sound

September 25, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Question: What has 660 feet, but needed eight buses to get into town?

Answer: The Pride of West Virginia, the 330-member marching band for West Virginia University that wowed a crowd of more than 2,000 Thursday night for "Mountaineer Fanfare" at Martinsburg High School's Cobourn Field.

It doesn't have 76 trombones, but it does have 30, along with about 90 other brass pieces, 120 woodwinds, 22 tubas, 30 percussionists, an equal number of color guard members, three baton twirlers and two drum majors.

Directed for the past 26 years by Don Wilcox, the Pride of West Virginia is to be presented the Sudler Trophy at next week's homecoming game against Rutgers. The announcer for the band called it "the Heisman Trophy of marching bands."

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In addition to the players, graduate assistant Kelly May said the band has a staff of about 15, including Wilcox, assistant director John Hendricks, coordinators for the color guard, percussionists and twirlers, "and of course the equipment manager, who is responsible for getting everything where it needs to go."

That is no small task, since its roster is about five times the size of a college football team and has much more equipment in the form of instruments and uniforms.

The band has a number of members that graduated from high schools around the Eastern Panhandle, including assistant director Hendricks. The Shepherdstown native is a graduate of Jefferson High School. He played trombone and was a drum major for the Mountaineer band and has been the assistant director for five years.

The band gave some eardrum-rattling renditions of the university's fight song and other tunes, but was surprisingly subtle when it came to performing the school's alma mater and Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."

Some future members of the band were likely on the field, as well, with marching bands from Musselman, Berkeley Springs, Hedgesville and Martinsburg High warming up the audience for the Pride of West Virginia.

The big band bash was the culmination of West Virginia University Days in the Panhandle, which included several other performances by other bands and choirs from the university. There were also college awareness programs, lectures by university faculty and other events aimed at recruiting Eastern Panhandle high school students into joining the ranks of the Mountaineers.

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