A retired Ryder truck might not be the transportation of choice for a college kid, but members of Tennessee’s Pride of the Southland Marching Band can’t stop taking pictures with their new ride.
The 2007 truck, which boasts a 16-foot-long box and a wrapped exterior of iconic band photos, was gifted by one of the band’s most loyal fans, Dr. William Salmons, just before classes started in August.
“All of our mouths just dropped open at the sight of it,” says Gary Sousa, who is band director and WJ Julian Professor of Bands. “It was like Santa Claus came in August.”
The personalized truck, which is a moving billboard for UT and the band program, alleviates decades of rentals used by the band to transport instruments and equipment to practices and football games.
Sousa says, “Dr. Salmons represents one of the many who give to the UT band out of the goodness of their hearts. He continually demonstrates the act of paying it forward.”
Earlier this year, Sousa “planted the seed of the band’s transportation needs” at the prompting of Salmons. The Knoxville dentist, who has already established a band scholarship and hosts an annual summer band picnic, was elated to fulfill their top wish.
“Band members practice for countless hours and are some of the most disciplined and deserving students on campus,” says Salmons, who graduated from the UT Health Science Center’s dentistry program in 1975. Although he dreamed of becoming the drummer of the British rock band the Rolling Stones, Salmons says laughing, “I never made it past practicing on my desk with a circular rubber pad and drumsticks.”
His appreciation for music and the UT band has never waned.
“Just imagine a football game without the Pride of the Southland Marching Band,” says Salmons, whose season tickets in Section J have remained the same since 1976. “There would be no ‘Rocky Top,’ and the UT football experience would not even compare. And that is hard to imagine.
“The band is such a huge part of the Volunteer spirit, but they are often an afterthought.”