By Ken Lay

Three Central High School senior band members will take their respective musical talents to Rocky Top this fall.

Eli Ditmore, Thomas Hooper and Devin Hopson will attend the University of Tennessee and play in the Pride of the Southland Band.

They made it official in the late afternoon on Tuesday, May 18, at a signing ceremony in the Central High Library with their families and friends in attendance, along with CHS principal, Dr. Andrew Brown and assistant principal and athletic director J.D. Lambert, band directors Alex Mink and Krista Kearney, Central High School Bobcat Band Boosters President Lisa Fontanarosa and University of Tennessee Associate Director of Bands, Dr. Michael Stewart.

Ditmore, Hooper and Hopson will continue making music together. They’re the best of friends and have been performing together since they were students at Gresham Middle School.

When you grow up in the shadow of UT and Neyland Stadium, you dream of showcasing your talents on the stage of Shields-Watkins Field, whether you’re a football player or a musician looking to play in the world renowned Pride of the Southland Band, one of the oldest and biggest collegiate musical organizations in the United States.

“I’m really looking forward to this, said Hooper, who has played trumpet since he was in the sixth grade at Gresham. “It feels really great to get the chance to keep performing with Eli and Devin.

“They’re two of my best friends and we’ve played together in middle school and in high school and now, we’re going to get to keep playing music together in college.”

Ditmore said he’s also eager to get to UT and continue playing with his friends.

“I’m looking forward to this and I’m looking forward to getting to do this with two of my best friends,” said Ditmore, an alto saxophone player. “It’s great for us to get to do this together. It will help us become better musicians, and I plan on continuing music after college.”

For Hopson, who plays the clarinet, the Pride of the Southland Band will provide an opportunity to pursue his passion of making music.

It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s exciting because I had wonderful experiences in band and I didn’t want those to end. Eli, Thomas and I have basically been playing together since we were in middle school.”

Stewart welcomed the trio of Central High seniors but said that their experience in collegiate band will be demanding.

“This (ceremony) is the chance to see what Central High School has to offer,” Stewart said. “The one thing I know about the Central High students is that they work hard.

“At UT, we have one of the oldest and biggest bands and you’ll learn how to demand more from yourself than you ever expected.”