|The University of Florida Fightin' Gator Marching Band|
|School||University of Florida|
|Director||John M. Watkins, Jr.|
|Assistant Director||Archie G. Birkner IV|
The University of Florida Fightin' Gator Marching Band, also known as The Pride of the Sunshine, is the official marching band for the University of Florida. The current era of the band is also referred to as The Sound of the Gator Nation. They perform at every Florida Gators home football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and also at various other events such as pep rallies, parades, and the annual Orange and Blue spring scrimmage game. A full band usually travels to one away game a year while at other games a small/medium-sized pep band will attend. Members of the Gator Band, as well as other University of Florida students, are encouraged to join other ensembles such as concert band, jazz band, basketball band, and volleyball band. The majorettes (twirlers) for the marching band are called the Gatorettes who perform acrobatics, cartwheels, flips, and sometimes twirl multiple batons at one time. The color guard is called the Florida Visual Ensemble.
The first band at the University of Florida was founded by "Pug" Hamilton in 1914. It had 16 members and was called "The Cadet Band". The first band office was in Anderson Hall and the first band room was in the Women's Gymnasium.
One of the first women in Gator Band was Sophy Mae Mitchell of Sebring, Florida in 1948. After marching with the banner in her first year in the band, Mitchell was invited back to play the bell lyre for the remainder of her college career. She frequently returned to the Alumni Band games along with over 100 other Gator Band alumni until her passing in January 2021.
The Steinbrenner Band Hall at the University of Florida was made possible by a private donation from George Steinbrenner and his wife Joan in 2002 in exchange for naming rights. The facility was completed in 2008 and houses the Stephen Stills Band Rehearsal Room in addition to offices, instrument storage, the band library, and an instrument issue room.
Gator Marching Band Field was constructed on what was formerly Pony Field at 1273 Gale Lemerand Drive. Prior to the construction of the practice facility, the Gator Marching Band practiced on various fields across the University of Florida campus for over a century. Phase I of construction was completed in August 2018 and encompasses an NCAA-regulated artificial turf field that mirrors the game-day performance space and is built with proper drainage and adequate lighting as well as a 5,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion that provides shelter from Florida’s inclement weather. Phase II of the project, which will begin construction once funding is secured, includes a research and teaching building with workrooms, instrument storage space, an ice machine, and restrooms.
In 1972 the Gator Band was featured at the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In 1997 they returned to participate in the Walt Disney World 25th Anniversary Celebration. In 2012, the Gator Band was invited to perform in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The trip was funded by donors and by payments from individual members and the University of Florida was given the honor of the Gator Band leading all present marching bands at that year's Summer Olympics. In 2013, the Gator Band was selected as the recipient of the Sudler Trophy, a one-time award conferred upon the nation's best college marching bands, by the John Philip Sousa Foundation. They received the award on November 9, 2013, during the Homecoming halftime show. In 2017, the Gator Band was featured in an episode of America's Got Talent. The band filmed hours of footage in UF’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in January 2017 the day before spring classes started. Their segment ended up being the episode’s introduction.
At the conclusion of all home game-day rehearsals, the Pride of the Sunshine forms their concert arcs, links hands, and sings the University of Florida's alma mater in four-part harmony.
Pride of the Sunshine sings the Alma Mater
Prior to their game-day march to the stadium, the Gator Band sends two groups of musicians to Gator Walk Village, a collection of 20 or so tailgating tents on the North Lawn between Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and University Avenue, where they play for the Florida Gators football team as they enter the stadium. The band provides entertainment for tailgating fans as well as support for the team as they prepare for the upcoming football game.
As soon as the field is clear the band marches into the Swamp from the entrance tunnel in a pregame block. They take the field opening to the "Gator Chomp", while the Voice of the Gator Band, Gerre Reynolds, announces their entrance.
From the fanfare block the band plays the fanfare and takes the fight song ("Orange and Blue") down the field, then forms the block "F." Starting the trio of "Men of Florida" march, they move into their ceremonial set, the outline of the state of Florida. From the ceremonial set, the crowd is invited to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" which is followed by the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the University of Florida's alma mater.
Finishing the alma mater, the band plays "We Are the Boys March" to enter into the Gator spell-out preset. Next, they play "Gimme a 'G'" while they spell out the word "Gators." Then they play "Orange and Blue" to take the script "Gators" down the field toward the tunnel from which the team enters. At the end of “Orange and Blue” the band plays "You Are My Sunshine" while forming the block “U F” form that the football team runs through for their entrance. The band plays “Orange and Blue” once while the team runs into the stadium and again when exiting the field.
Pride of the Sunshine entrance for Pregame
In the stands, the band plays a large number of school songs, many of them variations of the Jaws theme. The band plays "Gator Chomp" and "Gator Maximus" at various points in the game while the team is on defense, and "Let's Go Gators", "Orange and Blue First Down", and "Go Gators" while the team is on offense, among other various songs. Songs like "You Can Call Me Al" and "Hey! Baby" are crowd favorites.
Perhaps the best-known tradition of the Gator Band is the playing of "We Are the Boys from Old Florida" at the conclusion of every third quarter. Beginning with a short intro, the band sets the whole crowd into a swaying motion starting with the first words. Following the playing of "We Are the Boys of Old Florida", the song "I Won't Back Down" by Gainesville native Tom Petty plays over the stadium loudspeakers while the crowd joins in as a tribute to Petty’s career and devotion to the University of Florida.
We Are the Boys from Old Florida and I Won't Back Down
One of the newest traditions was started by Florida head coach Urban Meyer in 2005. After every game where the Gators win he walks over with the team and the team, band, and fans sing the alma mater and the fight song together and the head coach shakes the director's hand. This tradition was continued by Will Muschamp and Dan Mullen.
Alma Mater and Orange and Blue
The Gator Alumni Band performs during halftime of the homecoming game each year. It consists of a volunteer group of former members of the Pride of the Sunshine. The alumni band is best known for the "Biggest Boom in Dixie", a very large bass drum that is carted onto the field during the show. At some games, mascots Albert and Alberta have played the drum as well.
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