Larry Pannell, the long-serving director of the World Famed Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band, will retire next month, ending a 26-year career at the institution, and 21 as head of the marching band which helped to vault HBCU culture into American mainstream entertainment.
In a statement, Dr. Pannell credited the university for giving him the freedom to grow the brand of the marching ensemble and its students and graduates.
”I believe that I raised the bar and set a vision for the future that will allow the World Famed Tiger Marching Band and the GSU Music Department to thrive far beyond my tenure,” said Pannell, who is also a graduate of the department and a former band member. “I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve my alma mater and to impact the lives of so many young people.My focus now will be on my family and taking time for myself.”
Dr. Pannell’s employment at GSU began in 1992, when he was hired as an assistant professor and assistant band director. Under his leadership, the Tiger Marching Band performed in Super Bowls, for five U.S. presidents – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W.H. Bush, George Bush and Barack Obama, and in nearly every domed stadium in the nation.
The band added to its global appeal with appearances in national commercials for Coca-Cola and EA Sports.
“None of that compares to the fulfillment of positively impacting the lives of so many young people. I am honored to have helped them to build their self-esteem and character and become winners on and off the field,” Pannell said. “I often told them that at the end of life, it is not the birth date or the death date that matters; but rather, the important thing is represented by the dash that is placed between the two on our tombstones. It’s what you do in life that matters. At Grambling, I tried to do my part to ensure that each student in the department and played in the band was equipped for future success.”
Dr. Pannell will end his Grambling career on June 30.