Brian Gorrell had given a quarter century to the UK Alumni Pep Band as its director.
Now he figured it was time for someone else to take the reins.
Gorrell led the band for the last time at Kentucky’s Jan. 11 game against Alabama, capping a 25year run leading a band that not only performed at UK men’s basketball games but also at women’s basketball, and more recently, volleyball matches. The band
performs while the students are on their semester break
“Rather than staying too long and someone saying, ‘Brian it’s time to move on,’ it was my choice to do this,” Gorrell said. “I figured 25 years is long enough for one person and I will still do some of the women’s games, just not the men’s. It’s time to let someone else share in all the fun.
“I’ll still participate in the UK Alumni Band for football and help lead the band across the field like I did more than 50 years ago.”
Gorrell served as drum major for the Wildcat Marching Band from 1966-1970. He earned a bachelor of arts in music from the UK College of Fine Arts in 1970 and a master’s degree in education from the UK College of Education in 1978.
Joel (‘78 FA) and Tracy (Demaree ‘84) Lovan organized the band in 1994 and were looking for someone to conduct the group. The asked Brian if he would and, after some coaxing, he agreed.
“I cautioned Joel and Tracy later to ‘be careful what you wish for’ as I stayed for 25 years!” Gorrell said laughing.” The reason I have done it all this time is because the band members are such great people. It’s a family, and I enjoyed being with them at games.”
To help future generations of Wildcats have similar lifelong memories, the Brian R. Gorrell Endowed Marching Band Fund was established. The fund helps support the Wildcat Marching Band students, including but not limited to: student support and scholarships; instruments, music, uniforms and equipment; travel to away games; appearances at regional and national marching band conferences; and special projects, such as recruiting and outreach.
“My wife Grace (Gray Gorrell, who earned a bachelor of science degree from the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment in 1979) is my biggest cheerleader and was instrumental in developing the endowment.” Gorrell said. “It’s very humbling and such an honor to have my name associated with the endowment.” Gorrell spent his professional career as a band director and music educator in the public school system.
His first job was as band director at Madison (Indiana) Consolidated High School for two years before returning to Kentucky.
A call from the late Dick Borchardt ’53 FA brought Gorrell to Henry Clay High School, where he stayed from 1973-1977. He left for a year to complete his master’s degree, then became band director and music educator for Clark County Schools in Winchester, where he stayed until his retirement in 1998.
“That opened up more time for the Alumni Band. We started having more performances for volleyball and Excite Night for gymnastics,” he said. “We actually, one year, did a couple of away games in Cincinnati and Louisville.”
To honor Gorrell, the band held a reception at the King Alumni House after his final game as director. But Gorrell had no intention of making the event about him.
“Before they had a chance, I flipped it and made it a reception for them. On the cake it read, ‘Thanks Alumni Band for the Memories!’ because I didn’t want it to be about me,” he said. “I wanted it to be about how thankful I was for being their director for 25 years.
“We’ve got a real stimulated group that are true blue Wildcat fans.
“These diehard fans are fine musicians and all former members of the UK Band.
We are all volunteers, but confidently, I would have paid for the honor to direct them!”