UT Pride of the Southland alumni return to help band during holiday season

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For all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowds, 'tis also the season for the "skeleton" crew.

School is out and the office is closed but one group has plenty of volunteers ready to step up and assume the extra duties.

The Pride of the Southland band recruits alumni to help fill out their membership during the holiday season, so UT basketball fans still have live music during the games.

"Usually as soon as finals are over, [students are] gone," explained Interim Associate Director of UT Bands, Dr. Michael Stewart. "So that's why during this time of year we really recruit hard with those nearby, and it's a great opportunity to get our alumni involved."

From mid-December through the first week of January, alumni can sign up online to participate in game-day performances. They play through a selection of about 50 tunes during men's games and Lady Vols games.

"I think the pep band plays a major role in getting the students, in getting the crowd involved in the game," Stewart said.

"To have that live music playing during the game, and to have Rocky Top playing and the school songs, I think it adds a very important part to the game atmosphere."

Volunteers represent recent alumni, and those who graduated decades ago. Michelle Cosby and her husband joined the alumni during Monday night's men's game against Morehead State University. The Cosby's live in Texas now, and were visiting family in Middle Tennessee for the holidays.

"Left the kids with my parents, my husband and I are both here!" Cosby said. "We got here early, went around the campus and saw all the things we haven't really seen in a really long time and seen all the stuff that's changed."

One thing that hasn't changed -- is the muscle memory it takes to get through Tennessee's signature song, Rocky Top.

"I think the great thing about playing an instrument, it's one of those few things in life you can do for the rest of your life. I think that's a major, important lesson that these students learn," Stewart said. "Even though you graduate there's still opportunities to keep playing and it's a great chance, even though you're a little rusty, you can still come back. You're always welcome to come and play Rocky Top one more time."

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