The University of South Carolina "Mighty Sound of the Southeast" Marching Band
SchoolUniversity of South Carolina
LocationColumbia, South Carolina, United States
ConferenceSoutheastern Conference
DirectorDr. Rebecca Phillips
Assistant directorMr. Jayme Taylor
Fight songThe Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way
UniformWhite jacket with garnet and black trimmed in silver embroidery. The back of the uniform is a large garnet panel embroidered in silver with the official university logo. The uniform has two pant options, white or black, trimmed with a garnet stripe down the side. The shako is Garnet with white trim, the university logo in silver, and a white plume.

The University of South Carolina Marching Band — also called the "Mighty Sound of the Southeast" or more commonly known as the Carolina Band or the USC Marching Band, has entertained football fans at the University of South Carolina since 1921. This 325-member marching band performs at all South Carolina Gamecocks football games played at Williams-Brice Stadium and most football games outside of Columbia, South Carolina—including bowl games.

The University of South Carolina Marching Band entertains fans, serves the community in a variety of service and performance activities, and provides a musical education for thousands of Carolina students. The "Mighty Sound of the Southeast" is an integral part of a pre-game experience culminating in the playing of the "Dawn" section of Also sprach Zarathustra, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, as the Gamecocks run onto the field at the start of every game, which Sporting News once called "the most exciting pregame entry" in college football.


The Carolina Band began as a student-initiated organization in 1920, when the request to organize a band was granted by the Board of Trustees. The first band, with less than 20 students formed in September 1921 under the direction of a student (Mr. Martin).[1]

  • 1922: After the departure of Martin, James C. Lanham, another student at USC, assumed the director position through the 1922-23 school year.
  • 1923: George Olson was appointed director of the band, Olson was the first faculty member in charge of the band (was Dean of the School of Commerce). With 23 years, Olson was the longest serving director of the marching band itself. (Copenhaver is the longest serving overall director of bands; however he only directly oversaw the marching band for 21 years).

The World War II years (to 1945)

Still under the direction of Olson, the band became an integral part of the life of the university life and began to increasingly take on the appearance and the sound of a marching band. Olson's band were of the first to wear uniforms in the school colors and he offered participating students instruments for use in the band. Band membership totaled around 50 members.

Additionally, as the United States was engaged in the second world war, many members were lost from the university and the band to active duty requirements for World War II. In 1941, the formerly all-male band changed its policies to allow females into its members. The first female members only served as majorettes. Later, female members assumed positions as marching members of the band.[2]

After World War II & the 1950s

After World War II, the band began to develop more as a "show" band, with more elaborate pre-game and half-time shows. There were four different directors between 1946 and 1959.[3]

  • 1946: Louis Albert Fink continued the V-12 Naval ROTC band style which was used by Olson in the latter part of his term. Additionally, the band began to travel to football games away from Columbia.
  • 1950: Richard H. Zimmermann served as director through 1955. Membership reached a peak of 82 members.
  • 1955: Donald L. Banschbach succeeded Zimmermann during the first time that Air Force ROTC, Navy ROTC and University bands all operating independently of each other.
  • 1956: Pat Garnett is know most widely for eliminating the majorettes from the band. He suffered a stroke in 1958 and ended his term as director in 1959.

The Pritchard years & the 1970s

The style of the Carolina Band can be traced to the appointment of James D. Pritchard as band director in 1959. Though a regimental marching band, Pritchard brought back the majorettes and feature twirlers, who had been absent from the shows of the preceding few years. Pritchard also acquired a recording studio, more storage & practice areas and created the "Coquettes", the official dance team of the marching band.[4]

He also collaborated with then-athletic director and head football coach Paul Dietzel in creating the new school fight song, "The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way (Step to the Rear)." The song is still used today.

  • 1970: Ralph Wahl succeeded Pritchard with a four-year tenure noted by great highs and lows. During this time, Wahl tripled the size of the Carolina Band to 350 members (which was the largest at that time). However the band program made a controversial separation from the Department of Music. Additionally, upon his departure from the university, Wahl destroyed many of the band's earliest records and documents.
  • 1974: Thomas O'Neal, served as director for two years. O'Neal brought the band back under the jurisdiction of the Music Department. The tradition of post-game concerts by the Carolina Band began at this time.

The Copenhaver years

In 1976, James K. Copenhaver, the longest-serving Director of Bands (now Director of Bands Emeritus), succeeded O'Neal. Under his leadership, the University of South Carolina Marching Band has grown both in size and quality of Band performance, and it continues to have a significant role in the life of the university as well as the community. Copenhaver created the most well-known USC pre-game show (used from his tenure through the 2010 season). He also is responsible for the tradition of always having national or world champion twirlers as a part of the band.

The SEC years (1990–present)

USC was accepted as a member institution of the Southeastern Conference on September 25, 1990. They began play during the 1992 season.

Because the league is one of the most successful financially and its football games have traditionally been of the highest attended and most televised, this brought increased exposure to USC. Subsequently there was significant change and publicity to the Carolina Band.

One change included the creation of the positions Director of Bands and two Associate Director of Bands. Under this organizational structure, the Director of Bands became responsible for administering the total band program (which includes the Marching Band, the Pep Bands, the Concert Band, the Symphonic Band, the Wind Ensemble & the summer band camps). The various bands in the program would then be overseen by two Assistant Director of Bands.

One of the new Assistant Directors of Bands would then become also the Director of Athletic Bands, which included direct oversight and conductor of the University of South Carolina Marching Band and pep bands.

The first person to hold that position was Dr. David O' Shields. From 1995 until 2006, Dr. O'Shields's served as Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands at the University of South Carolina.

O'Shields' tenure is highlighted by the demolition of the former Band Hall, the move to an Interim Band Hall and the creation of plans for the new $9.8 million new band facility complex which later opened in April 2009.

Dr. George Brozak's became the new Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands in 2006. His period leading the marching band is noted by the offering of scholarships for all Carolina Band members for the first time. Mr. Steve McKeithen was hired as Assistant Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands in 2009.

Following James Copenhaver's retirement in 2010, Dr. Scott Weiss was appointed Director of Bands at the University of South Carolina.

On March 16, 2011, it was announced that Dr. Rebecca Phillips would take over as Director of Athletic Bands beginning with the Fall 2011 season officially becoming the first Associate Director of Bands/Director of Athletic Bands. With the start of her tenure came the rise of several new changes to the band program including the creation of a new pre-game show. The position previously held by McKeithen was changed to Assistant Director of Bands/Assistant Director of Athletic Bands and is currently held by Mr. Jayme Taylor.


Alma Mater

After any gathering of the Carolina Band, the University of South Carolina Alma Mater is sung in four-part harmony. Whether it's rehearsal, a football game, or any other band event, the Carolina Band never breaks without singing their Alma Mater.

Amazing Grace

After every football game, the Carolina Band plays an arrangement of Amazing Grace that features a member of the trumpet section as soloist, a tradition introduced by Dr. David O'Shields sometime around 2000. Many members of the crowd, including band alumni, refuse to leave Williams-Brice Stadium until Amazing Grace is played.

VIDEO: Boogaloo (What's That You Say?)
from YouTube
Band post-game celebration with What's That You Say in 2008 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

Boogaloo (What's That You Say?)

A collection of dances formerly done after every Carolina Victory. Many band alumni in the crowd would often join in with relish each time the Boogaloo was performed, and to many band members this tradition (which had been at Carolina since 1974, if not earlier) was the highlight of the day. Its performance was suspended in 2010 due to its crude and sometimes offensive lyrics. It was reinstated for post-game performance after a major revision but ultimately discontinued following the 2010 season.

Gameday Pep Rallies

On game day, the Carolina Band performs at numerous pep rallies on the way to the Williams-Brice Stadium. These include a rally at Gamecock Village, the Cockabooses behind the Stadium, and a special performance on certain days for the President's Pep Rally at the ETV Studios.

Pre-Game Show

The Copenhaver pre-game show traditionally began with a perimeter that was formed around the field; this then became a 100-yard long block that started off with the "Carolina Moon Fanfare." The band then began the Old USC Fight Song, followed by the popular Go Carolina while forming the "USC" formation on the field. Then a single high step began the Step to the Rear fight song, electrifying the crowd.

After flipping the "USC" formation to face the East stands, the band played "America the Beautiful" and ended in concert arcs to perform the National Anthem and the Alma Mater. This was followed by Gridiron Cocks Fanfare, and a lengthy drum cadence as they moved to spell "CAROLINA" across the filed. The band then repeated Go Carolina as they moved down the field, finally ending with another cadence while forming a tunnel through which the football players would enter the field.

The pregame entrance was changed in 2006 by Dr. George Brozak receiving criticism from some band alumni and students. The "run-on" to the field, say some, left band members breathless for much of pregame and unable to perform at a high level. Alumni also stated that the new beginning to pre-game lacked the energy and drive that the old pre-game had in abundance. With the arrival of Mr. Steve McKeithen, pregame was changed back to the traditional entrance Mr. James Copenhaver adopted shortly after becoming the Director of Bands in the early 1970s.

Under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Phillips and designed by Mr. Jayme Taylor, "The Mighty Sound of the Southeast" debuted a new pre-game show in the Fall of 2011, displaying a more traditional "high-step" marching style while maintaining traditions of the band from decades earlier. Band members enter the field from the North (student) end zone to the powerful Gridiron Cocks Fanfare and are led by two mace-carrying drum majors. This is followed by the Old USC Fight Song at the end of which the Band forms a large Palmetto Tree surrounded by gates, the official logo of the University of South Carolina System. Following the National Anthem and School Alma Mater, the band plays the Step to the Rear fight song while forming the giant "USC". A major change to this tune was created by adding the "CAROLINA" Spell-out between the two verses of the song during which the Band flips the formation to face the East stands. Following the fight song is a new tune called "The Garnet & Black March", based upon the USC Alma Mater. The band then plays Go Carolina while forming the giant "CAROLINA" on the field which then moves towards the South end zone. After a final fanfare the band moves into its tunnel formation to drum cadence to await the start of "2001" and the team's entrance.

VIDEO: Carolina Band Pre Game Show 2011
from YouTube
Performing in Williams-Brice Stadium at the Navy game in 2011.

Third Quarter

A newer tradition happens at the end of the third quarter, before the beginning of the fourth quarter of a home football game. "Thus Spake Zarathustra", more commonly referred to as the theme song from "2001: A Space Odyssey" is played again while fans hold up four fingers, alluding to the fourth and final quarter. (This is believed to have some relation to former professional wrestler Ric Flair, who was associated with the Four Horsemen. Flair has been a frequent attendee at home games, especially since the arrival of head coaches Lou Holtz and later Steve Spurrier).

Entering Stadium

Upon entering any stadium, the band members yell and hold their instruments in the air until they emerge outside onto the field. This move is often mimicked by drunk crowd members with entertaining results.


From 1971 until sometime in the late 2000s (?), the Thursday or Friday preceding the homecoming game, the Carolina band performed at the pep rally called Cockfest. It featured appearances by the cheerleaders, players, and coaches at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Alumni Band

The alumni band performs during one of the half times every year and consists of a volunteer group of former members of the Carolina Band during the normal half time of the game.

Songs of USC

"Thus Spake Zarathustra" (aka 2001)

The South Carolina Gamecocks feature perhaps the most unique and electrifying pregame entry in all of college football with the use of Einleitung from Thus Spake Zarathustra

As the minutes wind down on the game clock prior to the opening kickoff, the Gamecocks leave the locker room and assemble in the tunnel in the southwest corner of Williams-Brice Stadium. The Sporting News rated USC's "2001" as the most exciting pregame entry in all of college football.

It was written by German composer Richard Strauss. Though the piece was a part of the classical repertoire and introduced in 1896, it became known to the general public because of its use as the key musical motif in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1969, it became the beginning of the introductions to every show performed by Elvis Presley. followed by the Elvis theme, and Presley appearing on stage. Professional wrestler Ric Flair also famously used the piece as his entrance music. The Gamecocks began using it at all home games in 1981 because of the correlation to the year 2001, which is when the University of South Carolina celebrated its bicentennial year.

Because of the level of excitement and noise level of fans at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Carolina band no longer plays the song during the entrance; instead only playing it during other points of the game or at special functions. The Gamecocks now play the song over the stadium sound system so that it can be heard throughout the stadium.

VIDEO: USC Mascot Cocky Directing Carolina Band in Cocky's 2001
from YouTube
Band performing in Williams-Brice Stadium in 2008.
VIDEO: USC playing Shake a Tailfeather
from YouTube
Band performing in 2006 during the Liberty Bowl week.

"Cocky's 2001"

Cocky's 2001 or Thus Spake Cocky is an uptempo arrangement of Thus Spake Zarathustra. It is generally played during periods where less time is available for Thus Spake Zarathustra or when the Gamecock football team is enjoying an advantage in the score of the game.

The highlight of this song is that it is directed by Cocky, who is the school's mascot and one of the most celebrated mascots in the country by winning four (4) Mascot of Year/Championships since his arrival in 1980 (Universal Cheerleading Association - 1986 and 1994; Capital One Mascot Championship in 2003; and the National Cheerleaders Association national championship in 2009).

"Go Carolina"

Premiered at the 1980 Gator Bowl when the school was looking for another fight song to use. (From interview 10/6/06 with James K. Copenhaver-confirmed by USC band archives). Also appears on 1980 University of South Carolina marching band-Carolina Band LP 5262 c.2. Dick Goodwin, long time arranger and composer for the marching band and professor emeritus of the School of Music at the University of South Carolina, states:

Go Carolina is my original composition meant to be used independently or with a cheer.[5]

"Fight Songs"

  • OLD USC FIGHT SONG: Carolina Let Your Voices Ring: The fight song immediately predating the current and official fight song ("The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way Step to the Rear) was composed by Columbia native M. Carrere Salley (d. 1981).

In a letter dated May 16, 1969 to James Pritchard, Salley describes the origin of the piece, including some wry comments concerning the pecuniary reward for his efforts:[6]

In about 1933, OΔK Omicron Delta Kappa fraternity sponsored a contest for a fight song for the University of South Carolina. The winner of this contest was to receive $500.00. I entered this contest and my song was declared the winning song. Later the award was reduced to $300.00. I was paid $50.00 and promised the rest as the pledges were collected. I didn't press for the remainder because I felt I was lucky to get fifty and would have entered the contest if there had been no reward offered.

Salley provides a bit more information on the later history of the song in a letter to Coach Paul Dietzel of 10 December 1968:

['Carolina Let Your Voices Ring'] was first introduced by Dean George Olson, who at that time, was acting bandmaster. It wasn't until Mr. James Pritchard came to us as bandmaster that interest was revived in this slightly used song.

Pritchard elsewhere comments, "This fight song was rearranged by myself and used throughout my 10 years as Director of Bands (Fall 1959 though Spring 1969)." It was not used the following year when Ralph Wahl became director.

This fight song is now known by the title Old Fight Song. The lyrics are:

Carolina, let your voices sing to you we sing our praises high!
Ring out! Sing out! On to victory forever fight, we'll do or die.
Carolina, fight with all your might, let all unite in proud acclaim
Then battle on together, one and all forever, Fight! We've got to win the game, Rah! Rah! Rah!
Garnet and Black we raise, Gamecocks forever praise,
So, fight! For Carolina! Cheer! For Carolina!
Hail to our Carolina, we cheer forever, U-S-C!
  • OFFICIAL USC FIGHT SONG: The Fighting Gamecocks Lead the Way (Step to the Rear)

USC band director James Pritchard obtained a band arrangement of the song Step to the Rear from the Broadway musical How Now, Dow Jones in 1968 and the marching band played the song at the first game of the 1968 season. It caught the ear of Coach Paul Dietzel who contacted Prichard about making it the official fight song of the University to replace the original fight song, Carolina Let Your Voices Ring. Dietzel wrote the lyrics for the song, but asked that he remain anonymous because knowledge that the football coach wrote the lyrics might render it unacceptable to the basketball program. The song was officially introduced on November 16, 1968 prior to the football game against Virginia Tech.[7] The lyrics are:

Hey, Let's give a cheer, Carolina is here,
The Fighting Gamecocks lead the way.
Who gives a care, If the going gets tough,
And when it is rough, that's when the 'Cocks get going.
Hail to our colors of garnet and Black,
In Carolina pride have we.
So, Go Gamecocks Go - FIGHT!
Drive for the goal - FIGHT!
U-S-C will win today - GO COCKS!
So, let's give a cheer, Carolina is here.
The Fighting Gamecocks All The Way!

There are now several versions of this fight song suitable for different game events. A short version consisting of the last two lines of music follows any touchdown. After the extra point or following a field goal, the song is played in its entirety including the "CAROLINA" spell out between the two choruses. A different short version is used after every Gamecock first down.

"Other Favorites"

  • "Krypton Fanfare"
  • "Shake a Tailfeather"


The home of the Carolina Band is on the University of South Carolina campus at 324 Sumter St. On April 26, 2009, the University of South Carolina opened a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to its 300-member marching band and a newly accredited dance program. The $9.8 million complex features practice areas, rehearsal rooms, storage for band instruments/uniforms and an adjacent 110-yard long practice field complete with field lighting and a three-story observation tower. The main level building plan is organized around a series of large practice areas and dance studios along the field-side to the north. Smaller offices and support spaces are located to the south.

Pep Bands

The Carolina Band prides itself on providing spirit and school songs at every football game the South Carolina Gamecocks play. This includes providing smaller pep bands for all away games not attended by the full band.

VIDEO: Cocky directing The USC Pep Band
from YouTube
Pep band performing in 2009 during the 2008-2009 basketball season.

Men's and Women's basketball and Women's volleyball games feature "Concocktion", the official pep band of the University of South Carolina. This band performs at several home volleyball games and all men's and women's home basketball games hosted at the Colonial Life Arena, the largest arena in the State of South Carolina and the tenth largest on-campus basketball facility in the United States. "Concocktion" travels with the basketball teams for both SEC and NCAA post-season tournaments.


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