Gator marching band to be awarded Sudler Trophy

Published: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.

The University of Florida marching band will receive a prestigious award Saturday in recognition of the years of excellence demonstrated by its many directors and members.

The award-winning "Pride of the Sunshine" band will be presented with the Sudler Trophy during the halftime show of Saturday's homecoming game.

Jay Watkins, director of the Gator band, said the award is an honor because it's the highest recognition a college band can receive. The group first was nominated for the award in 2011 and was a finalist, losing out that year to the University of Notre Dame.

"It's pretty gratifying at this point to be the recipient for the 2013 award," Watkins said.

The Sudler Trophy identifies and recognizes college bands that have demonstrated excellence over a long period of time, said Tim Rhea, director of bands and music activities at Texas A&M University and chair of the John Philip Sousa Foundation's Sudler Trophy Committee. The trophy is awarded every other year, and a band can be recognized only once.

Louis Sudler, who endowed the award around 1980 on behalf of the John Philips Sousa Foundation, passed away several years ago. Rhea said Sudler was an entrepreneur and vocalist with an interest in bands. Members of Sudler's family will be at Saturday's game to participate in the award presentation.

The award recognizes high musical standards and innovative marching routines, which Rhea said the Gator Band exhibited in a recording submitted to the selection committee.

Watkins put together a video of performances of the band from the 1960s to present day. He said the video showed the band evolving musically and marching-wise over the years.

"They should be commended for their standard of excellence," Rhea said. "It's a major accomplishment for not only the current band members and the current directors, but everybody that's played in the band in past years and prior directors."

The band has had a long history of entertaining audiences. The program began more than 100 years ago and was the first college marching band in Florida.

Watkins said another honor the band received was being able to represent the United States at the 2012 London Olympics. The band performed at Buckingham Palace and in the presence of first lady Michelle Obama.

He said he believes the band members are some of the hardest working students on campus. He said it's their dedication that has helped raise the band to this level.

"The students, over the last eight years, have really worked hard to put us into the national spotlight and into the conversation as one of the best bands in the country," Watkins said.

Rachel Metras, a senior psychology major, is a drum major this year and has been involved in band throughout her college career.

The 21-year-old, who typically plays the clarinet when she's not conducting the band, first found out about the award in the band director's office with the other drum majors. When she first heard the news, she said she was incredibly humbled.

Metras said she's proud of how much the program has grown over the years.

"It's sad to leave because I feel like these people are my family, but I feel like I'm leaving them in a good place," she said.

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