Clemson alumni band celebrates 30 years of shakin’ the southland
By Molly Collins
Media Relations, Class of 2013
Homecoming at Clemson is about honoring tradition, and this year, former members of the Clemson University Tiger Band will return to Death Valley to “shake the southland” once more during the homecoming game against Maryland on Nov. 10. Entitled “300 for 30” in celebration of the 30th anniversary of alumni band, this year’s event will bring together 382 former band members representing 21 states and 51 graduating classes, rendering the largest attendance in alumni band history.
Alumni band began in 1982, following the 1981 national championship football season. Seventy-five former members marched on the field with Tiger Band that year, and since then, the attendance has ranged between 120 to 140 participants. With a desire to increase attendance, the Clemson University Tiger Band Association saw the 30th anniversary as an opportunity for success.
“We were trying to come up with a way to get more people involved, and for the 30th anniversary, we decided we should strive for a record and get 300,” said Ed Evans, Tiger Band Association president.
Evans also said that the event would guarantee an increased attendance at the groundbreaking of the new Tiger Band Plaza, scheduled for four hours prior to kickoff on game day.
“We wanted to get a lot more alumni involved in that,” he said.
Adding to the spectacle of the number of alumni who will be present this year, the alumni band will join forces with Tiger Band to form the Clemson Ring Crest on the field during the halftime performance.
“The ring crest idea developed this past spring,” Evans said. “The Alumni Association has now trademarked the ring crest, and the company that makes the rings will have photographers there. They will use the pictures in their promotions, and this will work out well as a benefit for both the University and the Alumni Association,” he said.
In the formation, the 382 alumni band members will create the “C,” palmetto tree and number 30 in the location of the graduating class to represent the 30th anniversary. Tiger Band will circle around them to create the outside of the crest.
“This is something the fans are going to want to stay in their seats for. It’s something we’ve never done before and will be really spectacular,” said Evans.
Evans also said that the more than 600 band members on the field collaborating to create this visual will pay tribute to Tiger Band as a family.
“This is going to be a 600-member family reunion on the field,” he said.
Within this family exists what one might call an alumni band hall of fame. There are 29 married couples coming where both spouses were members of Tiger Band. Tom and Gensie Waldrop are a part of this group, and the two have also marched with alumni band every year since its beginning. Dale Walsh also joins the Waldrops in this perfect attendance category. Terri Bowers will be traveling the furthest to Tiger Town from Hillsboro, Ore., and James Sams from the Class of 1954 will join the group as the oldest participant.
Mark Sims, Class of 1970, also has a story to tell, as deciding to participate in alumni band this year meant picking up a clarinet again for the first time in 42 years.
Though he always wanted to participate in alumni band, Sims said that not having an instrument and having gone so many years without playing kept him away. However, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of this special occasion.
“I bought a clarinet off eBay, and I found someone who gives clarinet lessons,” Sims said. “I have been taking lessons for about two months now, and I feel that I can comfortably play ‘Tiger Rag’ again!”
Sims said that he is looking forward to becoming a part of the alumni band tradition.
“I can’t wait to march down the hill to Death Valley playing ‘Tiger Rag’ with the alumni band. I hope to make this an annual event from now on,” he said.
The “300 for 30” event will kick off on Friday, Nov. 9, with a BBQ dinner at Fike Recreation Center for participants. The alumni band will join Tiger Band’s pregame rehearsal on Saturday.