FAMU Seeks New Marching Band Director

Florida A & M University, hoping to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the death of a university band drum major who participated in a hazing incident, is advertising for a new band director who would have significantly less power than the last person to hold the post and will be held as responsible for band member conduct off the field as on it.

In an announcement released late Friday, FAMU announced it was soliciting candidates for the position of Director of Bands, a new post that separates the role of band director from that of chairman of FAMU’s department of music.

Veteran FAMU music department leader Dr. Julian White, held both posts before retiring from the university in May. White was placed on administrative leave in December by FAMU President Dr. James Ammons, as part of Ammons’ response to criticism of the institution’s leadership after the October 2011 death of drum major Robert Champion.

FAMU said the search would last the month of July and that its goal was to have the new director on board by the end of the fall, 2012 semester. In a statement announcing the new search, FAMU provost and vice president for academic affairs Larry Robinson, said the new director of bands “will play a key role in implementing new policies and procedures” governing the band. Ammons this spring suspended the band for the 2012-13 academic year.

In addition to overseeing all aspects of the organization and performances of the marching and pep bands, the new band director will “work closely” with a new music department compliance officer to “ensure” compliance with a laundry list of new university policies regarding anti-hazing, academic requirements, rehearsal hours and travel, the university said. The new compliance plan, outlined in May by Ammons, was designed to address a range of oversight issues that emerged after the hazing incident, including the fact that more than 100 participants in the 400-plus member band were not enrolled in the institution at the time of the incident, despite having official uniforms, traveling and performing with the band.

“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…,” Robinson was quoted as saying. “We desire someone with unrelenting commitment to our core values, particularly those related to anti-hazing….”

A FAMU spokesperson said current music department staffers could apply for the new post. However, it could not be determined whether Dr. Shelby Chipman, current associate director of bands or others currently at the university had inside tracks on the new post.

The university statement said Robinson had appointed a 13-member search committee to be chaired by Rodney Wright, dean of the FAMU School of Architecture. Other committee members were not identified, although it is likely to include Dr. Kawachi Clemons, a music department program director. A FAMU graduate, Clemons is expected to be named interim chair of the music department today.