Leading the Marching Pride


Alex Hopper, News Editor

Sophomore Kenley Gibson wakes up with nerves – mostly excitement but with some uneasiness. 

She is the drum major for the University of North Alabama’s Marching Pride and she is about to start a hectic and event-filled day. Arguably the paramount performance for any university marching band, the homecoming half-time show is on the horizon and she and the rest of her bandmates have been hard at work preparing. 

Gibson is from Trussville, Alabama. She came to UNA with some band experience under her belt as she played the clarinet and served as the drum major in high school. Though she has a passion for the band, she is not a music major. Instead, she is earning her Bachelor’s in legal studies and minoring in political science. 

In performances, pep rallies, and parades Gibson leads the band, alongside her co-drum major, Ivy Gwen, with passion. Though her job only starts at conducting. The role she plays extends far beyond the platform on game days as she serves the team on many levels. 

“There is a lot of behind the scenes action that goes on,” Gibson said. “Whether it be helping section leaders or the directors, we run errands – there’s really a lot of service in it.”

Gibson describes moving trucks, carrying equipment, and acting as a liaison between her bandmates and the directors. 

A sophomore being the drum major is not unheard of but it is definitely rare. Director Lloyd Jones says he saw a natural inclination for leadership in Gibson. 

“Deciding what to prioritize, what fire to put out first – that takes some maturity to get to the level where you think that way,” Jones said. “And she is doing outstanding.”

For the past few months, the Marching Pride has been perfecting this year’s performance entitled “Respect.” The program celebrates iconic female singers and performers. A theme that sits in conjunction with The Year of the UNA Woman initiative.

The homecoming show is an extension of that performance with a few added song selections.

“I mean besides supporting the team, the half-time show is what we are there for,” Gibson said. “It’s the time we share what we have been working on.”

While anticipating the day, Gibson saw the homecoming half-time show as a chance to reach a new audience; with families, friends, and alumni coming to watch the game. 

“We’ll play the alma mater for everybody, which is super special,” Gibson said. “A lot of alumni come back for this game. So it’s good to be able to play it and have those traditions that are so deeply rooted at UNA.” 

After the homecoming performance the band will set off to Muscle Shoals High School to play in an exhibition. 

“Some nights are extremely busy for our band,” Gibson said. “We will have multiple performances that we will have to rush to.”

“But, I don’t think we would change a bit of it.”

Gibson doesn’t want to miss out on any chance to perform. The audience’s reaction is the reward for early morning workouts, mid-day sweltering practices, and the many other responsibilities Gibson has to balance as a drum major. 

In addition to showing off the band’s talent, Gibson also says the opportunity to support her school is an added benefit of her role. 

“I think we’re all excited to be able to support what our school is doing,” Gibson said. “I think that [homecoming] is a really beautiful ceremony and we’re super excited to be able to support the people that have been nominated to represent our school.” 

Gibson’s favorite memory of being in the band comes from her first performance as drum major at Brooks High School. 

“I think nothing will beat the first time I conducted a show,” Gibson said. “It was very special to me.”

“It’s fun to think back on my first performance and to see how successful the band was,” Gibson said. “To now, seeing how much the band has grown, individually and as a whole.”

Gibson feels honored to be recognized by her directors in this leadership role. 

“Of course there were challenges with this being my second year only,” Gibson said. “But I’m really thankful for everyone that supported me through this, and kind of helped me along.”

Gibson will continue to lead the band throughout the academic year. Helping the Marching Pride to continue its long-standing tradition of supporting UNA.