Kerr sees growth

Liberty University’s Spirit of the Mountain Marching Band has come a long way since its inception in 1977. Dr. Stephen Kerr, director of bands at Liberty, has been a part of the program from the very beginning and has watched it evolve over the past few decades.

MUSIC — Kerr reflects. Photo credit: Les Schofer

MUSIC — Kerr reflects. Photo credit: Les Schofer

“(Before 1977) there was a group that did play on the field that was very limited from anything you would consider to be marching band,” Kerr said. “But ’77 was really the year it started, and that is meaningful to me because that was my first year as a student. I did my undergraduate here, and I was in the band for that
initiatory year.”

Band membership has grown substantially since the ’70s. According to Kerr, the band is in the first year of a three-year campaign to recruit 300 players in three years.

“We were significantly under (one) hundred when I first started,” Kerr said. “We are at 230 this year. Last year, we had 203 or something like that. So by the fall of 2016, our goal is to have 300 in the band.”

Kerr has been on the marching band staff for 25 years and has served as the director for 15 years. He took over as director of the band in 2000 from director Ray Locy. Before that, he spent 10 years as a brass instructor and director.

“It’s gone from a staff (of) one, me, to bringing other faculty members and staff members and student members on board to help lead the band,” Kerr said.

According to Kerr, the five staff members include himself as director of bands, Associate Band Director Kathryn Voelker, Assistant Marching Band Director Christopher Coker, Assistant Director of Athletic Bands and Percussion Tyler Loftin and Colorguard Instructor Bryanna Tester.

The staff has expanded to include six technicians who have graduated and serve as instructors, nine cabinet officers made up of current students with full-time responsibilities who organize the other students and 11 people who each lead particular sections of the band.

In addition to the increase in staff, the nature of the program has become more complex over the years.

“Like most college bands, (our) intent is to entertain the audiences at football games,” Kerr said. “And while our focus is to do that, … we also have our feet in a Corps style marching, which is a highly acclaimed style for marching bands now. The Corps style is to develop a really highly complex show, and to continue to add to that in its length and complexity throughout the fall season until about halfway through … when you’ve got your show in place. So we do music that entertains the crowd, things like Justin Timberlake in ‘Mirrors’ and other pop tunes that college students know and appreciate and enjoy.”

Kerr said he hopes to see the band perform at special events in the future, including NFL events and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Janney is the asst. news editor.

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