GT Band Leaders Influence Atlanta For 95 Years And Counting!

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Marching Band was founded in 1908 by 14 Georgia Tech students. Expectedly, this marching band was pretty good at math and engineering. But it may surprise you to learn how exceptional they have been -- and still are -- at leadership.

Our marching band was the ninth collegiate/university band in the country to establish a Kappa Kappa Psi (KKPsi) fraternity chapter. Founded in 1924, Georgia Tech's Iota chapter of KKPsi installed, mentored, and created strong bonds with their fellow chapters across the state

The Band’s Big Brothers

A member of the Kappa Kappa Psi marching band fraternity rides on a fraternity brother's shoulders while four other fraternity members line up and bow as the first two walk by. All people in this photo are wearing shirts with Greek letters for Kappa Kappa Psi on them.

In 1949 they helped install the second KKPsi chapter in Georgia at Emory University. They also helped install chapters at the University of South Carolina (1974), South Carolina State University (1971), Morehouse College (1990), Morris Brown College (1992), and Clark Atlanta University (1993). The most recent chapter they helped install was Huntingdon College in 2011.

“We’re especially close to the Nu Alpha chapter at Georgia State and the Nu Mu chapter at Kennesaw State,” said Tech’s current KKPsi president Derek Watson. 

KKPsi is an honorary fraternity that functions as a service, leadership, and social organization for band members across the country. US President Bill Clinton, composers John Williams and John Philip Sousa, and bandleader Count Basie are some of the fraternity’s famous alumni.

“We love interacting with other chapters in Georgia, and we hosted a Georgia Day this past Spring where we invited all chapters in the state of Georgia to our campus,” Watson said. “We got to know each other through social activities, games, and a scavenger hunt across campus.”

Big Sisters Lead The Way

A group of Tau Beta Sigma sorority members pose with their instruments for a group photo. All the people in this photo are wearing shirts with the Greek letters for Tau Beta Sigma on them.

Another honorary marching band society, Tau Beta Sigma (TBS), shares the lead for the Yellow Jacket Marching Band. This national marching band sorority was modeled after KKPsi, and counts Queen Latifa, Sheila E., and even John Denver as notable alumni.

“TBS encourages each chapter to host a ‘Woman in Music’ speaker every year, which Tech completed this past Spring,” Grace Kendrick, president of Tau Beta Sigma said.

“One of our purposes in TBS is to encourage women in the music profession, and with this series, we have women musicians speak to our band community about their experience in the industry as well as obstacles they faced as women in the music industry.”

The Epsilon Theta chapter of TBS was installed at Georgia Tech in 1973. In the 1990s, both Tech chapters of TBS and KKPsi became co-ed.

“We get a big sister from TBS and a big brother from KKPsi. Not every chapter does this, but we love fostering close bonds with our sisters,” Watkins said.

This coordinated leadership, and Georgia Tech’s unique marching band turn heads nationally, Kendrick said.

“Even though we are predominately math and science majors, unlike other TBS chapters which have a lot of music majors, we are considered a strong chapter in our district,” Kendrick said, “Our chapter is unique because we are able to balance our heavy academic load, be leaders in the band, and run a high-functioning organization under TBS simultaneously.”

Like their KKPsi brothers, the sisters of TBS helped found other chapters across the state.

“We have a strong relationship with our little sister Chapter at KSU,” Kendrick said. “Each semester, we hold at least one social event. When the KSU Chapter of TBS was founded in 2015, we helped them through the chartering process and served as mentors and role models in their TBS journey.”

Marching Band Spirit In The City

Members of the Kappa Kappa Psi marching band fraternity play in a hospital hallway, decorated with festive garlands.

When they’re not busy with day-to-day band leadership tasks -- like building shelves in McCamish Pavilion to better store their tubas or organizing the School of Music’s massive sheet music library -- KKPsi and TBS members reach out to kids in Atlanta.

“Every semester, we go to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. We get together a small band, our music chair picks out some pop songs to play, and then we go meet with our contact there,” Watson said.

“They make an announcement across the entire hospital saying, ‘The Georgia Tech Marching Band is here!’” 

“After we’re done, we’ll let them play on the drums a bit, and they can come hold the instruments. It’s definitely one of our favorite projects that we do.”

KKPsi coordinated with the Yellow Jackets Women’s Basketball Team and Team Impact, a national nonprofit that connects children facing serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams, to do a signing day in honor of an 11-year-old battling cancer. 

TBS hosts an annual Girl Scouts event on campus, Kendrick said. 

“It’s half a day where we put on workshops, talking about music around the world. At one point we’ll help the girls build pan flutes, so we'll have all the materials for them to do that. Then they write  a few measure pieces with different notes and rhythms, and then they can play it in front of everyone.”

And the sorority regularly visits Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home, an organization that provides palliative help for those with terminal cancer. 

“We go every semester, but in the spring semester we put on a little Super Bowl party for the patients. Having a band there gets them really excited, and then we sit and watch the game with them, too. That’s been really fun,” she said. 

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