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UT band director plans to retire after 23 years

UT’s game against Vanderbilt will be his final time as director in Neyland Stadium.
Published: Nov. 27, 2021 at 5:48 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2021 at 10:39 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - University of Tennessee band director Dr. Don Ryder plans to retire from his position. Dr. Ryder served 38 years as band director; 23 of them being at UT.

A Vol for life, Dr. Ryder said, “I love it here and I always will be a Vol.”

Saturday morning marked the last time he’d do a walk-through and direct a band performance at halftime inside Neyland Stadium.

“I hope I can make it through the day really not getting choked up,” Dr. Ryder said.

In his time at UT, Dr. Ryder has helped thousands of students accomplish their dreams of being in the Pride of the Southland.

UT senior band member, Chandler DeArmond, said, “I couldn’t imagine having anyone else as a band director. He’s done so much for the organization.”

One of those accomplishments is getting scholarships for the entire band, including the color guard and majorettes. The students in the band make sure they show Dr. Ryder how much they appreciate him.

“Even today a student walked up and handed me a letter of what it means to be in the band and that’s been the hardest thing,” Dr. Ryder said.

Even on his final practice before a Vol home game, he’s extremely detailed to ensure the Pride of the Southland has a great performance.

Dr. Ryder said, “These students work hard and it doesn’t matter if it’s day 1 or the last day today. We have high expectations to meet those demands.”

Although Dr. Ryder is retiring from the band, he’s picking up another title to keep him plenty busy.

“Grandpa,” Dr. Ryder said. “We had them over Thanksgiving and it was reassuring of what that next chapter could be.”

UT’s game Saturday is also Senior Day for Vol football players and band members. Dr. Ryder said he didn’t want all of the focus on him today and celebrated his retirement last week.

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