news-category: Performing Arts

Gardner-Webb Marching Bulldogs Plan Energetic Debut at First Home Football Game

Three Marching Band Members pose in their uniforms

New Director of Athletic Bands Sarah Fabian Excited to Lead The Sound of the Springs

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—The Marching Bulldogs—Sound of the Springs—is eager to take the field for its first home football game on Sept. 1. New Director of Athletic Bands Dr. Sarah Fabian is proud of the enthusiasm band members have shown as they worked together to learn the halftime show. Practice began in early August, and members are excited to perform for Runnin’ Bulldog fans.

“We are coming in with energy in our sound,” Fabian praised. “The students are just fantastic. They have been very receptive to my expectations. I’m holding them to a high standard, and the students are really feeding off the fact that we are detail oriented.”

First-year student Aliah McKennedy, of Spartanburg, S.C., is a member of the drumline and excited to continue her marching band career in college. A double major in exercise science and American Sign Language, she played in band in elementary school and started marching band in eighth grade.

“Dr. Fabian inspires me daily and has become a person I look up to,” McKennedy observed. “I truly see the huge heart that she has not only for band, but for the students that are in her program. I have also become close with almost all of my band members, and it is already starting to feel like a family dynamic while working on the amazing show that we have been given to perform.”

The concept for the first show is Black Out, which follows the game theme, with fans being asked to wear black in support of their Runnin’ Bulldogs. Fabian wants the songs to be a surprise, but said most everyone will know the tunes. She plans to add variety to the show by playing new songs throughout the season to match the themes for the games.

“Dr. Fabian has brought a new set of high expectations for our marching band, and even though she’s only been on campus since May her impact is already evident,” praised Gardner-Webb President William Downs. “The sounds are crisp, the percussion has swagger, and the students are having fun. I know they will be a wonderful addition to our gameday experience this fall, and I’m confident that the group is only going to grow in size and stature moving forward.”

The Marching Bulldogs dressed in beach attire for Band Camp
Beach Day at Band Camp

Hailey Rodden, a sophomore music education major from Belmont, N.C., is returning as drum major this year and said working with Fabian and meeting new members has been an awesome experience. Her instrument is the flute, and she was also drum major for her high school band. “Meeting and talking with other band members has been fun, and already the whole band seems like a family,” Rodden commented. “My favorite thing about the show is that the tunes will be easily recognizable and a crowd pleaser. I can’t wait for the audience to sing and dance along with us as we perform.”  

Payton Huffman, percussion section leader, was in the band last year, and he praised Fabian for already “building a wonderful culture for the marching band.” A music education major from Cherryville, N.C., he plays the snare drum and has 10 years of experience as a percussionist.

“I also love the excitement that the marching band brings to the game day experience,” Huffman asserted. “This school truly loves having a marching band on the field, and I have heard nothing but positivity coming from every corner of the campus. It’s an exhilarating experience.”

Fabian added that even when she’s been out in the community, people have stopped her to ask if she is the new band director at Gardner-Webb. “I keep telling the kids that we are the talk of the town,” she confirmed. “Anybody that is walking around when we are practicing sings our praises. It’s been really nice to see the campus community and even outside the campus show support. I can’t tell you how many people have welcomed me with open arms. I received emails from people I haven’t met yet, who said, ‘I hope you had a wonderful first day.’ How sweet is that.”

Join the Marching Bulldogs

Dr. Sarah Fabian welcomes two groups to participate in game day activities.

  • Volunteers are invited to take part in the halftime show by holding colorguard flags and running on que to a certain spot on the field. Everyone is welcome to participate and no experience is necessary. Contact her at [email protected].
  • High school students are invited to Band Day for an opportunity to play with the band and join in the game day experience. Dates are Sept. 24, Oct. 29 and Nov. 19. Registration forms and more information are available here.
The Marching Bulldogs pose with Football Head Coach Tre Lamb.
Football Head Coach Tre Lamb visits with the Marching Bulldogs at Band Camp.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to six professional schools, 14 academic departments, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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