Organized in 1869 as part of the Military Department, the band started off as a small all-cornet corps of male cadets. It first appeared at a football game against Sewanee in 1902.
In 1925, Bandmaster Ernest Hall added a female drill team and the new fight song, “Fight, Vols Fight!” Major Walter Ryba, a former French hornist with the John Philip Sousa Band, directed the band from 1941 to 1960, during which time it earned the name the Pride of the Southland from Knoxville Journal sports editor Ed Harris in 1949. In 1953, the band marched in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first inaugural parade, the first of the Pride’s 15 inaugural parades—more than any other
When W J Julian took over as bandmaster in 1961, he instituted many changes that would eventually become traditions: bright orange uniforms, running through the T, and the playing of “Rocky Top.” Donald Ryder now directs a band of more than 300 members. They will celebrate 150 years with band alumni and families at a gala on November 1.