Beginnings: Palmer & Hargreaves
While it is not well documented, the first band at Ball State Teachers College was most likely organized in the 1930's under the leadership of Claude E. Palmer. During his tenure as head of the Music Department from 1926 to 1945, Palmer conducted all the existing musical organizations. In 1945, Ball State President John R. Emens selected Robert Hargreaves to guide the destiny of music at Ball State Teachers College. One of Hargreaves many responsibilities was to direct the existing band, with assistance from Robert Holmes, who conducted the service band for athletic events. Hargreaves served as the band director for one year.
The Post War Years:
Hamilton, Fred, & Utgaard
The following year, Hargreaves selected Robert Hamilton from Cincinnati's Walnut Hills High School to head the band program, a position he held from 1946 to 1950. Herbert Fred, a nationally recognized composer/arranger, received the appointment of Director of Bands later in 1950. Fred's marching bands were one of the first in the country to perform drill patterns. He also established the concept of an all-male marching band which was rather quickly modified, upon a suggestion from the President's office, to include coeds. Between 1954 and 1957, the Ball State Band program continued to evolve under the leadership of Dr. Merton Utgaard.
Dunn Reorganizes Band Program
In 1957, Hargreaves selected Iowa native Earl Dunn to become Ball State Universitys sixth director of bands. Dunn held this position for 12 years, during which time he led the reorganization, growth, and development of the bands in all facets of wind performance.
By the mid 1960's, the Ball State University Marching Band had grown from 66 to 190 members and had been named by Dunn "The Pride of Mid-America." From 1964 to 1969 "The Pride" received national acclaim and recognition through a series of outstanding performances. In observing the Ball State Band as part of the 1965 Presidential Parade, Walter Cronkite said during the telecast, "Now there is a band." The band has performed for three presidential candidates: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George Bush.
In the 1960s the marching band established a reputation for playing "Big Band" styled arrangements that were written especially for the band by staff arranger and Burris faculty member, Richard L. Dunham. During this same period a Flag Corps was added to the band and the crowd-pleasing, musical production-styled halftime shows were enjoyed by young and old alike. The Pride of Mid-America performances included the 1965 and 1967 Grantland Rice Bowl games, and televised performances with the Chicago Bears in 1966, 1967, and 1968. A nationally televised performance at the 1967 NFL Western Conference Championship Game (Cowboys vs. Browns) was a milestone in the Ball State Band tradition.
Earl Dunn established the Ball State University Wind Ensemble in 1959. Known for its musical excellence in the performance of contemporary repertoire, the ensemble recorded a series of educational records for the Studio Publications Recording Company and was featured at the 1968 North Central Divisional Convention of the College Band Directors National Conference.
In 1969, Dunn left BSU for a position at the University of Alabama and Dean Depoy was selected to direct the university bands, a position he held for one year. In the summer of 1971, Roger McConnell, a former member of the BSU Band program, became the first Ball State alumnus to serve as Director of Bands. McConnell held this position for thirteen years and has remained with the BSU School of Music as a professor of music history.
During the decade of the 1970s, the "Pride" grew to a membership of 250 and the Ball State Bands became a unit comprised of Varsity, Variety, Symphony, Concert Bands, and the Wind Ensemble.
Scagnoli Returns to Ball State
In 1984, Joseph Scagnoli returned to his alma mater as Director of Bands, after having established successful programs at Selma High School (Indiana), Union-Endicott High School (New York) and Western Carolina University (North Carolina). Under Scagnoli's energetic direction, the BSU Marching Band became the first university band in Indiana to use contemporary curvilinear forms to emphasize and portray the band's music on the field. By 1988, the band had grown to 285 members. Similar to Dunn's efforts in the 1960's, Scagnoli reorganized the Ball State Bands to include the Marching Band, Wind Ensemble, Symphony Band, Concert Band, Basketball Pep Band, and Ceremonial Band.
During the twenty-two year period that Scagnoli conducted the Wind Ensemble, the band appeared at numerous national and regional conventions. In 1994 the Wind Ensemble was selected to perform for the North Central Divisional Convention of the Music Educators National Association Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was the featured performing ensemble for the opening session of the 1996 Indiana Music Educators State Convention in Indianapolis. They also performed at the 2000 Indiana Music Educators Association Convention as a featured Collegiate Ensemble. The band program was involved in numerous commissions by nationally recognized composers during Scagnoli's tenure.
Under the direction of Scagnoli, the The "Pride of Mid-America" traveled to Fresno, California in 1989 to perform in the California Raisin Bowl, and to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1993 and 1995 to perform in the Las Vegas Bowl. Additional performances by the marching band during this period included six NFL games for the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Indianapolis Colts.
In 1998, Christian Zembower accepted the position of Associate Director of Bands and Director of "The Pride of Mid-America" Marching Band. Zembower came to Ball State University from University of Southern Mississippi, Indiana University Pennsylvania, and Frostburg State University. His responsibilities included directing "The Pride" and the Symphony Band, as well as coordinating and supervising the performances of the Athletic Bands.
The Ball State Bands Today
2006 marked the onset of significant changes in the Ball State band program with two new directors hired to lead the program. Dr. Thomas Caneva was appointed to the position of Director of Bands and Dan Kalantarian was hired as the Interim Assistant Director and Director of "The Pride of Mid-America" Marching Band. Following a national search, Kalantarian was retained as the Assistant Director of Bands in 2007. Caneva came to Ball State from the University of Illinois; Kalantarian had previously served on the faculty of Wake Forest University.
One notable change occurred in the fall of 2007 when the concert ensembles were restructured to include a fall semester offering for non-majors (Campus Band) and the Symphony Band became an ensemble that met for the entirety of the academic year. These changes resulted in the same ensemble offerings seen today.
The Ball State University Wind Band Conductors Workshop debuted in the spring of 2007. Recent workshop clinicians have included Richard Clary, Craig Kirchhoff, Steven Bryant, Steven Davis, Eugene Corporon, John Mackey, Tom Lee, Angela Woo, Allan McMurray and Joe Missal. The workshop has attracted both aspiring and experienced conductors throughout the United States.
The BSU Wind Ensemble has had numerous regional and national performances during this period of time: it was the featured ensemble at the Chicagoland Concert Band Festival in 2008. Additionally, it performed at the North Central Division Convention of the Music Educators National Conference in Indianapolis in 2009; the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) North Central Regional Convention at Illinois State University in Normal, IL in 2010; the Indiana Music Educators Association State Convention in 2011; the CBDNA National Convention at the University of Washington in Seattle in 2011; and the 78th Annual Convention of the American Bandmasters Association in Indianapolis in 2012 (Ball State served as co-hosts of this convention along with Butler University, Indiana University, and Purdue University).
During Dan Kalantarian's tenure as Assistant Director of Bands, the "Pride of Mid-America" Marching Band appeared at the 2008 International Bowl in Toronto, Canada, and the 2009 GMAC Bowl in Huntsville, AL. Additionally, the band appeared at road games at the University of Michigan, Indiana University, Miami (OH) University and Northern Illinois University. The band also performed at halftime for two Indianapolis Colts games. Kalantarian served as the director of the marching band for four years, resigning in 2010.
Beginning in the fall of 2010, Dr. Shawn Vondran was appointed to the position of Assistant Director of Bands and Director of the "Pride of Mid-America" Marching Band. Vondran previously served as the Associate Director of Bands at Western Illinois University. During Vondran’s tenure as director of the “Pride,” the band has performed at away games at Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University. In addition to the road game performances, the band performed for the Indianapolis Colts during the 2011 season and at Cedar Point (OH) in 2012. Members of the band were also featured live on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” following Super Bowl XLVI.
In recent years, substantial events have marked the further growth and development of the band program. The BSU High School Honor Band Festival was rejuvenated in the fall of 2011. The festival has flourished under the direction of guest conductors Rodney Dorsey (2011) and Steven Peterson (2012). In 2012, the Symphony Band was invited to perform at the Indiana Music Education Association Convention. This marked the first time that the ensemble had been selected to perform at an event of this kind.
Materials for this historical overview of bands at Ball State University were compiled from information provided by Robert Hargreaves, Earl Dunn, Roger McConnell, Joseph Scagnoli, Thomas Caneva, and Shawn Vondran.
History of the Ball State University Bands