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History of The Bandmasters Championship

The name "Bandmasters Championship" has only been around since 2002, but the contest has over four decades of tradition behind it!

The first U of M marching competition, the Mid-South Invitational, began in 1963 at Whitehaven Stadium. The contest ran continuously from that year until 1999, having been canceled just once (1985, due to heavy rain). The contest remained at Crump Stadium through the '60s and '70s, and was held in the Liberty Bowl during the early 1980s before moving to Halle Stadium in East Memphis for many years. The Mid-South Invitational consistently hosted bands from Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama.

In the late 1990's, the University of Memphis Band Alumni Chapter took an expanded role in the planning and organization of the contest, in an effort to assist the U of M band staff. A decision was made that Halle Stadium was no longer an acceptable location for any marching band contest, much less a contest with such a long and distinguished history. After the 1999 Mid-South Invitational, the Chapter Executive Committeevoted to find a new and permanent home for the contest - and the most obvious location was the Tigers' home stadium, the Liberty Bowl.

Through the support of Dean Richard Ranta of the U of M College of Communication and Fine Arts, as well as Associate Athletic Director Bill Lofton and Mrs. Patty Bladon, U of M Alumni Development Director, the Liberty Bowl was secured in 2002 as the permanent site for the competition. At the same time, many aspects of the contest (format, scoring system, etc.) were evaluated and changed. The Band Alumni Chapter also decided to rename the contest to The Bandmasters Championship in honor of the professional music educators who have contributed so much to past, present, and future Mid-South band students.

By the second decade of the 2000s, The Bandmasters Championship regained its place as the region's largest and most prestigious marching event. Consistently drawing 25-30 bands and an overall attendance of 8,000 people or more, the contest has earned a reputation as the place to see outstanding performances year after year. The U of M Band Alumni are proud to carry on this long tradition!


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