The last hurrah: graduating cadets to help lead The Citadel and Charleston to the world stage
NEW VIDEO HERE: Band leaders talk about representing their nation
On a hot, humid, August day in 2011, David Cunningham of Ridgewood, New Jersey, and Brittaney Maples of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, reported to The Citadel to begin their freshman year of college. Both were attracted to the iconic South Carolina military college because of the band’s reputation and the unique style of education offered. What they discovered in Band Company, one of the college’s 21 cadet military units, was an esprit de corps and an opportunity to take their talent to new horizons.
“Regimental Band is different than any other company in the Corps,” said Maples, who plays the flute and the piccolo. “We are a team from day one. Even though we are knobs when we come in as freshmen, the minute that we sit down in the chairs, we are teammates with upper classmen. That’s just the way it is. It’s totally different—the camaraderie. The relationships that we build with each other across the entire company—it’s something special that is indescribable to anybody. It’s something that definitely keeps us going through all four years here, and it’s something I’m very thankful for because it’s an experience unlike any other.”
That led to this day when Cunningham, a political science major who plays trumpet, is getting ready to commission in the United States Army. He will serve in the infantry for four years and then transition to military intelligence. Maples is an education major, who hopes to teach high school social studies in the fall. But before they begin life outside Lesesne Gate, they and more than 80 members of the Regimental Band and Pipes will have one last hurrah representing The Citadel and the United States on an international stage.
“Unlike other senior cadets, our last time wearing our uniforms is not going to be at graduation—it’s going to be at a medieval castle in Scotland in front of a world audience for an entire month,” said Cunningham who also holds the rank of Band Company commander.“
Charleston takes the world stage along with The Citadel
In July with the generous financial help of donors, they will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate in a month-long festival of music, pageantry and demonstrations by military organizations from around the world. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is broadcast to 30 countries and approximately 100 million people annually, and it’s the largest production of its kind in the world. Charleston, South Carolina, is on the world stage along with The Citadel because the city is introduced at the beginning of each performance - and there are two dozen performances.
This is not the first time Cunningham and Maples have performed outside of the United States. In the summer of 2013, the Regimental Band and Pipes traveled to Canada to take part in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in Halifax. And just this spring, Cunningham, who traveled to France and Belgium for a spring break trip to study World War II history, played taps at the Normandy American Cemetery, the Luxembourg American Cemetery, and the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.
While the travel and the performance may seem glamorous, both Cunningham and Maples are quick to point out that there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work before they perform.
“We are giving up half of our summer vacation to practice from morning until night,” said Maples. “We come back in the middle of July and August and wear our uniforms in the heat, practicing and practicing. It’s stressful, but the end product is worth it.”
The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes is the only U.S. military college band ever to perform at the Royal Tattoo
The band first performed at the tattoo in 1991, and when retired Navy Cmdr. Mike Alverson took over as director of music in 2004, he set his sights on taking the band back to Edinburgh. Just six years after he arrived, Alverson and Pipe Director Maj. Jim Dillahey, ’01, a former Citadel bagpiper and an acclaimed professional bagpiper, took the Regimental Band and Pipes to the 2010 Diamond Jubilee Celebration of the Royal Tattoo where they wowed audiences. Now they are going back again where they will be America’s Band in 2015, the only U.S. band invited.
“Just being a part of Band Company the last four years has made all of the effort totally worth it,” said Cunningham. "There are 20 cadet companies at The Citadel and one band, and there’s only one company that gets to go around the state, the country, and the world, to represent what The Citadel really means. And that’s Band Company.”