UF’s Gator Marching Band makes history in London
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Gator Marching Band made history in one of London’s most iconic locations on Wednesday. Rehearsing for its performance for the women’s cycling competition, the UF Gator Band was the first non-British marching band to perform on The Mall — just outside of Buckingham Palace.
“We are completely blown away by the magnitude of this performance stage,” said Associate Band Director Jay Watkins. “Not only is this a first for the Gator Band – it’s a first for the United States.”
They played an assortment of Rolling Stones, Beatles and Queen arrangements to a crowd of a couple hundred that gathered to hear the rehearsal.
Shortly after their rehearsal, Prime Minister David Cameron stopped by to congratulate the band as he was walking from his residence to Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth.
The Gator Band will spend all of Thursday sightseeing around London. Stops include Stonehenge, Bath, Warner Bros. studios (Harry Potter set) and Oxford University. They will conclude the day attending a performance of the musicals “The Lion King” or “Wicked.”
“This is not just a business trip,” Watkins said. “As we planned their itinerary, we wanted to make sure they had a chance to be tourists.”
Friday morning will also mark a historic performance for the Gator Band as members take the field in full uniform at the U.S. ambassador’s residence to play for a number of Olympic VIPs, including First Lady Michelle Obama, Dara Torres, David Beckham, Shawn Johnson and the U.S. Track and Field team.
“I think everyone is looking forward to our performance at the ambassador’s residence,” Watkins said. “We are getting a chance to play for some of the most influential people in the world and support our Gator athletes on Team USA.”
They will play a variety of up-tempo pop music to go along with the First Lady’s “Let’s Move! London” campaign, which will be celebrated at the event.
Friday evening will conclude with two performances in Victoria Park, London’s oldest park located next to Olympic Park, for the Pre-Opening Ceremony Concert and then during the Parade of Nations.
The Gator Band will spend Saturday sightseeing in London, visiting iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the British Museum. That evening, the World Olympians Association has invited the band to a semi-formal dinner at the Wellington Barracks, adjacent to Buckingham Palace.
Sunday’s three performances will start at the American School of London to play for U.S. Embassy staff and family, and then a parade-style performance down The Mall during the Women’s Cycling competition.
The day’s performances will wrap up back at the Wellington Barracks courtyard where the Gator Band, featuring John Duff, director and professor of the UF School of Music on bagpipes, will perform for the Grenadiers Guard Band.
The Gator Band will not be in full uniform for the performance on The Mall because it is an International Olympic Committee venue, and any branding has been removed to create a logo-free clean zone established by the IOC. The band has been provided with alternative turquoise tops to their usual uniforms.
The trip will conclude with a trip to Windsor Castle on Monday and a dinner cruise down the Thames celebrating their historic trip by floating down Great Britain’s most historic river.
“This trip is not only historic, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these students,” said Watkins. “I could not be more proud of the Gator Band for the hard work they put in to not only make this trip a reality but representing The United States in the only way we could — by bringing the Gator Nation to the Olympic Games.”