The Incomparable Golden Rams Marching Band from West Chester University becomes the first Division II marching ensemble to win the prestigious Sudler Trophy.
Every other year during the Midwest Clinic International Band and Orchestra Conference, the John Philip Sousa Foundation awards the most outstanding college marching band in the nation with the Sudler Trophy. For the first time in the trophy’s 37 years of existence, the first Division II band—the West Chester University (WCU) Incomparable Golden Rams Marching Band—has received the honor.
In addition to its performances at football and school sports events, the band has marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and performed exhibitions at various professional football games, Bands of America Grand National Championships, and USBands competitions. WCU Director of Athletic Bands Adam Gumble discusses the school’s historic accomplishment.
Halftime: What is your musical background?
Gumble: I graduated from West Chester University in 2005 with a degree in music education. I started my teaching as a band director in the Quakertown (Pennsylvania) Community School District. I was there for four years as the associate director of bands. In 2009, I moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to become the director of bands at Hempfield High School [in Landisville], and I stayed there until the end of last year. This is my first year as the director of athletic bands at WCU.
Halftime: After being nominated for the Sudler Trophy in the past few years, what did it feel like to finally win?
Gumble: It was absolutely thrilling to be able to finally push it over the goal line. The program has been around for 120-some years, but Dr. James Wells was the one back in the 1970s and 1980s that turned the program into one that’s innovating and inspiring to so many people. This past fall, the school of music was renamed the Wells School of Music. To be able to receive the Sudler Trophy the same year we performed at Bands of America Grand Nationals and [when] the Wells School of Music began to form was pretty exciting.
Halftime: From the alumni perspective, how does it feel to win this award?
Gumble: The award itself is really a tribute to all the alumni. Over many years, the number of current music educators that are out there in the field who are alumni of West Chester University is unbelievable, and the number of people achieving success in the marching activity is amazing.
Halftime: How do you feel about being the first Division II school to win the Sudler Trophy?
Gumble: To be able to be a part of a school that has a legacy like West Chester and to
Halftime: West Chester University’s shows aren’t like traditional college halftime shows. Can you describe the unique programs being performed by the Incomparable Golden Rams?
Gumble: We have the moniker “Incomparable,” not solely because of quality but also because of what we do. We do a traditional pregame show, which is more of what you would expect from a collegiate program, but we also believe in focusing our energy into a singular product—a halftime show that is going to be as innovative and high quality from a performance standpoint as one you would expect from a top-level drum corps or any other top-level marching band in the country. That approach works really well for us and [has been] our educational mission for the last 50 years. We’re thrilled that it was recognized by the committee.
Halftime: How will the program look to grow and develop from here? Gumble: We’re really excited about the level of recognition we are receiving at this point and want to continue the upward trajectory. We’re looking to expand the outreach and influence we have alongside local and regional programs to try to grow and inspire high school students. We want to continue to stay at the cutting-edge of the activity and work together with people who are thinking about things that could happen on a football field that no one has thought about. We’re looking for ways to embrace what we do really well, to grow and continue to expand the outreach of our program.
Halftime: What is your advice for directors?
Gumble: I’m so lucky to be where I am with the help of the mentors I’ve had. I think if I had any advice for anyone, it would be to try to continue to learn every day. Try to recognize what it is that you don’t know, who it is that knows it, and learn as much as you can from those people. Know that you can learn from your students as well.
Halftime: What is your advice for students?
Gumble: To students that are looking to get involved in a college marching band, I would encourage them to find a university and culture that is the right fit for you. You are going to be a part of that family, and you’re going to want to enjoy that time as a member of that family.