When Cary High was located at the head of Academy Street, a small band formed at the school. A new Cary High School building opened on Walnut Street in 1960, and the school has continued to foster a strong band program over the years.
The 55th annual Cary Band Day will be Saturday, Nov. 2, at the school. More than 30 marching bands from North Carolina and Virginia will compete in a field competition.
Here, some folks share their memories of the tradition.
Harold Burt: In 1950, I came to Cary High School to teach industrial arts shop and drawing, and I asked to organize and start a band. I found a few students with instruments and it slowly grew. My goal was to create a band like Broughton High’s marching hundred, the outstanding marching band of Wake County. I never got that far before I left.
I wasn’t part of all the fabulous things the Cary band has done, like their trips to Europe and the Rose Bowl. That came after me. I was at the beginning. But I was there when the Cary High band majorettes and flag-bearers appeared in the ninth annual Azalea Festival parade in Wilmington in 1956. That was a big deal.
I took the band from two students who could sort of play their instrument to winning a spot in that parade in six years. I left Cary in 1956 to begin organizing bands at many schools in Wake, Johnston and Harnett counties.
Robert Godbold: Cary High School band began Band Day. They honor Harold Burt as the first band director in Cary. During the ’60s, the band was Cary’s big thing. They were the first non-local band that played in the Rose Bowl, twice. They played in the Orange Bowl. They went to New York, to Russia and Switzerland. They played in the presidential inauguration one time.
Carl Mills: When I was principal of Cary Elementary and High School on Academy Street, the Band Boosters was organized by a series of directors, from Jack White through Jimmy Burns. They were a very forward-looking group of band leaders. Under Jack White and later with the various band instructors, it caught fire.
We started Band Day, where bands came from the Southeast, from Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia. They brought with them terrific marching band programs. We developed a half-time program and a concert, so music became a pretty well-balanced program.
We were picking up things from other bands. For example, the Elizabeth City band had a lot of money into their program. It took six vans to bring up their equipment. When our people saw that, it made them want to do as well.
Koka Booth (former mayor of Cary): My son was in Cary’s outstanding high school band. I became active in the Band Boosters. The Cary band was invited to the Tournament of Roses Parade, then the Cotton Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the presidential inauguration and pro-football games.
Jerry Miller: Cary Band Day was a big thing. Koka Booth used to be a ramrod for that. Jimmy Burns was a great band director. He was a disciplinarian. He kept that band going just right. Cary was a top band, and got invited everywhere, from bowl games to Switzerland and all over.
Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book, “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” first published in August 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.