It’s estimated that perhaps 400 million people worldwide tuned in this past August to see the music, pageantry, and demonstrations at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland. That means people from all over the world heard Commander Mike Alverson (’95) lead the Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes in a rousing rendition of “Rocky Top.”
“It’s a pure and unabashed shout-out to my alma mater,” says Alverson, who graduated from UT with a bachelor’s degree in music education. “It’s a published arrangement, but it’s very, very close to the one UT plays.”
Broadcast by the BBC from Edinburgh Castle to thirty countries, the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo is the largest annual international military music performance in the world. The Citadel (South Carolina) was the first military college ever invited to the Edinburgh Tattoo in 1991, and it is the only one to have been invited back—in 2010 and again this year.
For Alverson, the worldwide telecast of the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo will be a fitting tribute as he winds up an illustrious musical career. The son of an Etowah, Tennessee, pharmacist, Alverson came to UT to study pharmacy and eventually take over his father’s store, but he found his true passion in music—as president of the UT Singers and as a trombonist under W J Julian in the Pride of the Southland Band.
“I learned so much from that man,” says Alverson. “It was an amazing experience. I had a great, great time, made great friends. Doing those circle drills was a phenomenal thing. I switched my major to music education, and Dr. Julian helped prepare me for my career in the Navy and my twelve years here at the Citadel.”
Alverson joined the Navy in 1971. “I always wanted to be in the Navy,” he says. “I enlisted before I was drafted.” Selected for the US Navy Band in Washington, DC, he had thirty-one years in various band assignments, capped by three years as director of the US Naval Academy Band.
After retiring from the Navy in 2001, Alverson spent three years as musical director of the Virginia International Tattoo in Norfolk. He joined the Citadel as director of bands in 2004, where he has overseen the Regimental Band and the Citadel Pipe Band. He is retiring this December, but not before the world hears his Citadel band’s version of “Rocky Top.”
Watch a video about Alverson produced by the Citadel and see the “Rocky Top” performance below.