LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — This football season, the Wildcat Marching Band is marching to the sound of a new beat.
It's more positive and uplifting because they're all back together after a year of separation.
Last season, the band was not allowed to perform at halftime and a third of the band played at every game to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This year, they're all back.
"To be able to come back with my friends making music, and now in the capacity of being a drum major, has been really really fun," senior drum major, Katie de Witt, said. "The attitude of the band is wonderful."
"I've probably had more fun this week than the entirety of last year," trombone section leader, Nathan Ellis, said. "We can actually see each other's faces and do things. Being around each other, it's a blast so far."
"We had our full band experience, kinda, here on the field, but in the stands, it was way different," drum major Caleb Hamlyn said. "We had to cut our band into quarters so it's really nice to know that that's about to come back and that we're going to have a full band and a full sound and be able to do some cool stuff again."
Doctor Shayna Stahl, who has received nothing but high praise from students, is at the helm of the newly energized band.
It's her first season leading the band and it's the band's first female director.
"I don't think of it as being the first woman because to me it's just being the director of the program," Dr. Stahl said. "For me, it's just an honor to be selected as that and hopefully I can serve as a role model for other women in the profession that want to be in the same position."
She has already made a lasting impression on Katie de Witt, who dreams of becoming a band director.
"It's really cool to have a woman in this position who is inspiring," de Witt said. "She's kind, but she also knows how to get people motivated and how to get things done, so it's been really really a pleasure working with her. She's a fantastic director."
"I think that's it's going to help our program grow a lot and be more inclusive as we go forward," Hamlyn said about Dr. Stahl making history as the first female director.
"I'm glad to be part of history a little bit," Ellis said. "Being under Dr. Stahl. I think it was really awesome when she got hired and she's been amazing ever since."
Together Dr. Stahl and the marching band got back to what they do best on Saturday for Kentucky's home opener: being loud, fun, and pumping up the crowd at Kroger Field.
They certainly helped kick off the season on a high note.