The unofficial birth of the Marching Mocs band is thought to have begun when eight students from the University of Chattanooga got together to play music for a student body meeting.
What may have cemented the band’s future happened the next day, though, when the eight played at a football game between UC and Cumberland College.
The dates were Oct. 12-13, 1923, making this year the band’s 100th birthday.
Football was growing in popularity in the 1910s and ’20s, and many universities in the South started organizing their bands at the same time their football programs were getting underway, said Randall Coleman, director of bands in the UTC Department of Music.
“As that activity grew, everybody wanted a band with their football team,” he said.
To make its 100th birthday even more special, the band—which was not dubbed The Marching Mocs until 1977—has been invited to perform in the 2024 New Year’s Day Parade and Festival in London, England.
The parade is expected to have more than 8,000 performers and a street audience of more than 500,000. It will be streamed live worldwide and televised in the U.S. on PBS stations.
“Receiving this invitation that ties into our 100th year is very cool,” Coleman said when the news was announced in March.
University administration has always supported the band throughout the century, whether it was UC or UTC.
“You can’t have any kind of activity like band without the support from the University,” Coleman said.
Coleman said that the Marching Mocs now has 150 members, and most are not music majors. Engineering majors make up the largest part of the band; music majors comprise about 5%.
“Band is something that, if a student chooses to do it in college and they’re not a music major, then the activity meant something to them in high school and middle school, and they want to continue it,” he said.
“It’s 100% out of enjoyment and wanting to still be a part of an ensemble and playing music.”
Band photos through the years, courtesy of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections and the Department of Music