FAMU Searches for New Band Director

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  • Tuesday is the deadline for applications for band director at Florida A&M University, and university officials have a good idea of the kind of person they are looking for, following months of controversy related to the death of drum major Robert Champion following hazing.

    “We want an individual with outstanding experience in band management, the proven ability to educate and inspire students to excel in the classroom and in the traditions of FAMU’s renowned performance style, and the capacity to lead and mentor faculty and staff,” interim FAMU president Dr. Larry Robinson said via email in response to questions from BlackAmericaweb.com.

    “We desire someone with unrelenting commitment to our core values, particularly those related to anti-hazing. The ideal candidate would have the ability to promote the values of respect and dignity among all members of the Marching 100,” Robinson said.

    Dr. Julian White, a FAMU alumnus who led the famed Marching 100 band program since 1998, retired in May after being on paid administrative leave since the November death of Robert Champion Jr.  National, state and university leaders have called into question management of the band program that has been steeped in a culture of hazing for years.

    Champion was one of six drum majors and was set to become head drum major in the next marching season. He died following a ritual called “Crossing the C Bus,” investigators say.

    In the wake of the tragedy, criminal charges have been levied against 13 former FAMU band members, White has retired and President James Ammons was forced out earlier this month.

    Champion’s family has filed a lawsuit against the university and against the owners of the bus on which the hazing is said to have occurred.

    Chris Chestnut, lawyer for the Champion family, has said the drum major’s death could have been avoided if the university had not ignored the culture of hazing that infested the band and other campus organizations.

    In addition to hiring a new person as director of marching and pep bands, the university is also seeking to hire to senior level administrators to help eradicate hazing. Those two individuals – an executive assistant for anti-hazing and a coordinator of programs for anti-hazing – will work through the president’s office, according to job descriptions on the FAMU website.

    Applications for those positions are being accepted through Aug. 20.

    The first position for which applications are being accepted is the director’s job.

    That person must have an excellent academic reputation and the ability to manage a premier university marching band, absent of hazing.

    “The greatest challenge will be to find the best fit for Florida A&M University,” Robinson said. “The director of Marching and Pep Bands will ensure that staff and members of the Marching and Pep Bands are made aware of and comply with the University's policies and procedures regarding anti-hazing, academic requirements, rehearsal hours and travel. The director must also be able to continue positive traditions that have made the band a national treasure.”

    The Marching 100 will not take to the field this year. Ammons, the former president, announced suspension of the band earlier this year. When the marching band does return, it still will be known as The Marching 100, Robinson said.

    Rodner Wright, dean of the FAMU School of Architecture, will serve as chairman of the search committee for the band director’s position. The search committee will include 13 members, which will consist of faculty, staff, students and alumni.

    FAMU is not looking to hire assistant band directors at this time, Robinson said. Currently, there are professors in the Department of Music who serve as assistant band directors.

    Many of the band students who continue as students at the university in Tallahassee were recruited with scholarships and other incentives, such as out-of-state tuition waivers.

    When asked whether those incentives would remain for the students, Robinson said: “The Department of Music will provide scholarships to those individuals that meet the eligibility requirements.”

     

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