Featured photo: UTC marching band
By Amy Blakely | Courtesy Photos
Back in 2015, when she was a majorette with the Pride of the Southland at UT Knoxville, Kari Summers noticed Drum Major Andrew Vogel directing the band from atop a ladder at an open rehearsal.
She was smitten.
The two started dating that fall, “and the rest is history,” she says.
Kari (Knoxville ’17) and Andrew (Knoxville ’16, ’19) married in 2021.
If music is art, then band is a mural painted by a family of artists. From Knoxville to Chattanooga to Martin, band alumni share a collage of memories: camaraderie that developed during long, hot days at marching band camp; the thrill of performing concerts and football half-time shows; lifelong friendships and relationships; and a rigorous schedule that instilled a score of life lessons.
“A lot of the things I learned through band carry on,” says Andrew, who works at an advanced materials company in Knoxville. “I try to be focused and disciplined in everything I do.”
Kari helps run her family’s business, the Whimsy Cookie Company, in Knoxville and still operates on “majorette time,” which means, “If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re late.”
The Vogels—both of whom received scholarships for participating in the Pride of the Southland and serving as head majorette and drum major—now donate Gatorade for band members at every home game. Andrew also serves on the Alumni Band Council.
“We’re just always willing to give back because so many people gave to us,” Kari said.
UT Chattanooga band alumnus Terry Major (Chattanooga ’78, UTHSC ’82), a retired dentist, continues to play trumpet in two Chattanooga-area bands—the Midsouth Symphonic Band and the Monday Night Big Band.
Being in the band took him to a National Championship basketball game. Having a band scholarship and, later, a work-study job as the band librarian, helped him pay for school.
“And I’ve got lifetime friends from music,” he says. “Playing with a group is energizing, it feeds the soul … it just helps you as a human being.”
Molly Epperson (Chattanooga ’05), who played flute in the UTC concert band and the Marching Mocs and also served as drum major her senior year, has been the band director at East Hamilton High School in Ooltewah since it opened in 2009.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very fulfilling,” she says. “It is so much fun to be around really great kids that love what they do and love each other.”
Epperson saw some band members’ interest wane during the pandemic, even though she tried to fill
the void with Zoom rehearsals. As soon as in-person classes resumed, she designed a football half-time show that allowed her students to perform while still adhering to social-distancing standards.
Being together, after all, is what creates the magic: “Band has been everything to me my whole life,” she says. “That’s where my best friends are. I met my husband (Chris Epperson, trombone) in band. I’ve had some amazing experiences.”
Katherine Sam (Martin ’15) Josh Gatlin (Martin ’12) and Ed Sargent (Martin ’82) also have made careers in music after performing with UT Martin’s band.
After working as a music educator for several years, Sam, who plays most instruments but focuses on percussion, is now the operations assistant for the Memphis Youth Symphony program. She also coaches young percussionists.
A vocal music major, Gatlin played the saxophone in the concert band and tuba in the Aviators Marching Band. He spent seven years teaching music and directing school bands. He’s now director of music and media at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Tennessee.
“Being in the band taught me perseverance, determination, a sense of community. And just general life skills—punctuality, working with a team, failure and being able to recover from failure,” he says.
It also helped him meet his wife, Lauren. When they were both teaching at the same school, Lauren was
enamored by Josh’s vocal rendition of the “The Star- Spangled Banner” played over the school intercom.
Sargent has been in the music business for nearly 40 years. Now the tour coordinator for famed rock band Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, he also has worked with late jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, Tim Ries (Rolling Stones’ saxophonist), Carl Fischer (Billy Joel’s trumpeter), Reggie Watkins (jazz trombonist) and others.
“UT Martin opened the door to my life and my career,” he says.
Sargent was recruited to UTM after the university’s band director saw him playing the timpani in his high school band. As a UTM student, he helped bring the Maynard Ferguson band to campus to perform. Then, just days after graduating, he was offered a job touring with Ferguson’s band.
Over the years, Sargent has been a generous supporter of UTM, led master’s classes and helped bring top talent to perform on campus. The university’s Guest Artist Series is named after him. He’s also on the advisory board for Northwest Tennessee Arts Center, a multipurpose performing arts complex planned for the UTM campus.
Like the others, Sargent knows the people he met and the experiences he enjoyed in the marching, concert and jazz bands helped etch his life’s design.
“Band people are different. We just are,” he says.