The history of the UNCP marching band goes back to the 1945-46 school year, when the College Band was organized. Ira Pate Lowry, who served as the music department chair from 1935-1957, was the first director of the College Band; he and his wife Reba, a professor in the foreign languages department, co-authored the alma mater, "Hail to PSC" (now "Hail to UNCP").
The gold, black, and white headdresses the band wore in its early days were modeled after those worn by Indians from the Great Plains. They were made by Walter J. and Bertha (Lowry) Pinchbeck and Bonnie (Jones) Maynor ’34.
(Information and photos of Ira Pate Lowry and the PSC band found in the book Hail to UNCP! by David K. Eliades, Lawrence T. Locklear, and Linda E. Oxendine.)
Indoor Band (2003) and The Return of Football (2007-2015)
The precursor to the "Spirit of the Carolinas" began in 2003; during this time, the band performed as an indoor ensemble under the direction of Dr. Tracy Wiggins. All of the elements of a marching band were present -- winds, percussion, and colorguard -- and they staged a "Blast!"-like show on the GPAC stage. The band also performed at campus events.
A year later in 2004, the Board of Trustees voted to approve the return of football to UNC Pembroke, which had not fielded a team since 1950. While the university was preparing for this, Chancellor Allen Meadors was making sure that the game day experience would include a marching band. He worked with the music department to purchase uniforms and instruments, build an addition to Moore Hall that included a large band room, and create a faculty position to direct the marching band.
After a 56-year absence, football returned to the field for the 2007 season, and this also marked the return of a true marching band, dubbed the "Spirit of the Carolinas" by Chancellor Meadors. Under the direction of Marty Spitzer, the SOTC performed at halftime of home football games, traveled to select away games, and appeared in exhibition at local high school band competitions and parades. The band performed in Walt Disney World in 2008 and Universal Studios in 2010. In 2015, the SOTC traveled to Washington, D.C. and Norfolk, VA to perform in the Grand Illumination Parade. Halftime shows included "West Side Story" (2009), "Oz" (2010), "Manhattan Sketches" (2012), and "Life's a Beach" (2015).
The 2016 season brought new Stanbury uniforms to the "Spirit of the Carolinas," which gave the band a more modern look. During the 2016 season, Pembroke and the surrounding area were hit by Hurricane Matthew, which flooded the practice field and affected the band's performance schedule. "Good Morning America" filmed a segment about the effects of the hurricane in Robeson County in February 2017, and members of the SOTC (and UNCP Pep Band) had the opportunity to perform as part of the event.
In September 2018, Hurricane Florence came through the area, bringing more flooding. This time, it rendered the band practice field completely unusable for the remainder of the season and cancelling a planned trip to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, TN.
2019 was a successful year for the SOTC, with the first alumni band being put together for the Homecoming game; twelve band alumni attended the game, performed the alma mater during pre-game, and played in the stands alongside the current SOTC students. The band also performed their show, "Soul Train," in exhibition at the inaugural Midway High School Raider Round-Up band competition that season.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the SOTC in 2020: Marty Spitzer, the director of the SOTC since 2007, retired prior to the 2020-21 school year. With no football season and the protocols within the university and music department, there was no marching band at all in Fall 2020. The search began for a new director.
August 2021 saw the return of the SOTC, along with new athletic band director Dr. Michael Alsop. After two years, the band was smaller and younger, but it was a successful relaunch. New logos for the marching and pep bands were created, giving the ensembles a sense of identity on campus. The 2021 halftime show, "ICON: The Music of Elton John," was a crowd-pleaser at football games. At the end of the 2021-22 academic year, the search for a new director was on once again.
The SOTC welcomed Mr. Kalem Graham as the new athletic band director in August 2022. The band traveled to Fayetteville State for the reinstatement of the Two Rivers Classic and performed at home football games, Pembroke Day, and the student-organized Harmony Walk on the International Day of Peace. The 2022 season was capped with the SOTC's first appearance in the music department's Holiday Extravaganza since 2017.
As the SOTC looks to the 2023 season and beyond, the goal is to continue to grow the band back to its pre-COVID numbers and more. Some things to look for in the next few years include:
- Band Day -- local high school bands will be invited to join the SOTC for game day
- Exhibition performances -- the SOTC will perform at area high school band competitions
- Band trip -- TBA
The future of the SOTC is exciting! Whether as a member of the band or as a fan, we hope you will join us! Click here for more information about joining or supporting the band.