MARCH A BUSY MONTH FOR AWARD-WINNING                                                                                     
Photo of Bob Buckner
Bob Buckner

CULLOWHEE – For Bob Buckner, after this year the word “march” will no longer simply be a command that the longtime director of athletic bands at Western Carolina University issues to the 300 members of the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band. “March” likely also will become the name of Buckner's new favorite month.

That's because over the span of two days in mid-March, Buckner will receive the highest award given in the field of music education and will be inducted into a national band hall of fame.

MENC: The National Association for Music Education announced in October it would present Buckner with its Lowell Mason Award during its national conference on March 10. As Buckner was making plans to travel to Washington, D.C., to pick up his award, designed to recognize significant contributions to music education, he learned he would be inducted into the Bands of America Hall of Fame, just two days after the MENC event.

“Bob's fingerprints are all over Bands of America,” said Scott McCormick, president and chief executive officer of Bands of America, the nation's largest performing arts organization for high school bands. “His contributions to the organization span four different decades.”

The Bands of America Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have greatly impacted the BOA organization, the nation's band activity, and music education in general, McCormick said. Buckner and other members of the class of 2005 will be inducted during a ceremony Saturday, March 12, in Indianapolis as part of the National Concert Band Festival Honors Concert.

Buckner is in his 14th year as director of athletic bands at Western. Under his leadership, the university's marching band has grown from 82 members to more than 300 during the 2004 season. Western now boasts the biggest marching band in the Carolinas, with a membership larger than the bands at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and Clemson, said Matt Henley, assistant director of athletic bands.

The Pride of the Mountains Marching Band has performed twice as an exhibition band at the prestigious BOA Grand National Championships, a showcase for the nation's top high school marching bands. Western's own Tournament of Champions, an invitational competition that brings 25 of the East Coast's top high school marching bands to campus every year, attracts some 10,000 musicians and spectators.

The Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, often called the world's largest funk-rock band, performs a crowd-pleasing medley of up-tempo pop tunes, with electric guitars, singers and other musical elements not typically associated with marching bands.

The BOA's McCormick has praised Western's unit as “the most innovative and exciting marching band in the Southeast,” and has called Buckner “a legendary force in the marching band world,” “a leading pioneer of the modern-day marching band style,” and “one of America's leading drill designers for five decades.”

Before coming to Western, Buckner guided the Sylva-Webster (now Smoky Mountain ) High School marching band to the title of national champion in 1979, seven years after directing the school's band to a national title at the St. Petersburg Festival of States.

Buckner won Western's Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for faculty, one of the university's highest service awards, in 2003.

He has served on the Bands of America advisory board for several terms, was instrumental in the development of Grand Nationals format, helped launch the National Concert Band Festival, and has been on the faculty of the BOA Summer Symposium since the early 1980s. Buckner has served as chairman of the Western North Carolina Bandmasters and secretary of the North Carolina Bandmasters Association, and as an adjudicator, drill designer, guest conductor and clinician throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He has served on the staff of the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps and, in 1993, was the drill designer for the DCI Division II National Champion “Carolina Crown.”

Buckner has written field shows for more than 20 years for the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. He has also served as a special consultant to the Walt Disney Co., where he started its popular “Future Corps” program and served on the board of advisers for “Magic Music Days.”

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Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2005
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