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Professional Staff

David Starnes

David Starnes - Director of Athletic Bands

Mr. David Starnes joined the School of Music faculty at Western Carolina University in the spring of 2011, when he was named Assistant Professor in The School of Music and appointed the Director of Athletic Bands. During his tenure at Western Carolina University, The “Pride of the Mountains” Marching Band has performed as halftime entertainment for the Carolina Panthers (2011), the exhibition band at The Bands of America Southeast Regional in Atlanta, Georgia (2011), the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana (2012, 2015) and the 88th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City (2014). In 2013, he was selected by the WCU School of Music faculty and students as the recipient of the James E. Dooley Excellence in Music Teaching Award.

Prior to his appointment at WCU, he served as the Director of Bands at Kennesaw Mountain High School in Kennesaw, Georgia for ten years. As the founding Director of Bands at Kennesaw Mountain High School (2000), the band program grew from its initial 85 students to over 250 members.  Under his direction, Kennesaw Mountain High School was recognized in all areas of performance for their achievements at local, state, and national levels including concert band, jazz band, marching band, winter guard and winter percussion. They are a six-time national finalist at the Bands of America Grand National Championships, being named the 2004 Bands of America “AAA National Champion” and a four-time Regional Champion in Bands of America events. In December of 2003, the John Philip Sousa Foundation presented the Kennesaw Mountain High School Band the prestigious “Sudler Shield of Excellence” for outstanding achievement in marching band.  In 2005, the band appeared in the 79th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.  The Kennesaw Mountain High School Wind Symphony performed at the 60th Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic held in Chicago, Illinois in December of 2006.

Mr. Starnes is sought out nationally and internationally as an adjudicator, clinician, guest conductor, and creative designer. In 2016, he was appointed a member of the John Philip Sousa Foundation’s Sudler Shield Jury and named a member of the Yamaha Master Educator program. In 2013, he joined the staff of Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps, where he currently serves as Design Staff Coordinator. Mr. Starnes serves as Board Chairman for United Sound, a nationally recognized special needs music education program. He served as an adjudicator for several state, national, and international organizations including Bands of America, Winter Guard International, and Drum Corps International from 1994-2012. In addition to his position at Western Carolina University, he serves as an Education Consultant at Music For All in Indianapolis, Indiana.  While fulfilling this role, he serves as the program director for The Honor Band of America, who appeared in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017.

As a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mr. Starnes graduated magna cum laude from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1988. He is married to Rhea Jeanne Starnes, an Architect, and has a daughter, Hannah, who works as an Interior Designer in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Matt henley

Matt Henley-Assistant Director of Athletic Bands

Matt Henley is the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands at Western Carolina University, which includes assisting with the Sudler Trophy winning "Pride of the Mountains" marching band and the two "Cathouse Bands". One of Mr. Henley's primary duties is the Marching Percussion Program at WCU. This includes teaching and arranging for the marching ensemble. Matt earned both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in music from Western Carolina University, and has played with and instructed such groups as the Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps, the Limestone College Percussion Studio, the Tuscola High School Percussion Program, Showband Gifhorn, and the Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps. His high school groups have performed at the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival, numerous North Carolina Days of Percussion, and have won the Open Class CIPA Percussion Championship along with many years of successful marching band high percussion awards.  He has served as the Chief Percussion Judge for the Carolina Indoor Performance Association, has adjudicated for numerous indoor percussion circuits, and has written for groups in Germany, Canada, Hawaii, and the Continental United States.  Mr. Henley was recently asked to write for and instruct the first two All-American Marching Bands in San Antonio, TX in 2008 and 2009. This group was promoted by MENC and the US Army. He was also nominated for the WCU Excellence in Teaching Award by the College of Fine and Performing Arts, and serves as the Recruiting Liaison for the School of Music and the Office of Admissions at Western.  Currently Matt serves on the National Percussive Arts Society Marching Committee, and in addition to his teaching duties, he composes, arranges, adjudicates, and is a prominent percussion clinician across the United States.  Mr. Henley is a member of CBDNA, MENC, IARP, PAS, and proudly supports products from Yamaha, Remo, Zildjian, and Vic Firth companies.  He resides with his wife Angie and son Landon in Clyde, NC.

Jon Henson

Jon Henson-Assistant Director of Athletic Bands

Jon Henson joined the School of Music in 2007 as an Assistant Director of Athletic Bands. Some of his primary duties are to instruct and arrange for the rhythm section and the front ensemble. Some of Jon's other duties include the management of all aspects of the "Pride of the Mountains" electronics as well as developing media for the band program.

In 2009 the “Pride of the Mountains” was presented the Sudler Trophy, the highest award recognized by collegiate marching bands. The band has performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade (2011), as halftime entertainment for the Carolina Panthers (2011), the exhibition band at The Bands of America Southeast Regional in Atlanta, Georgia (2011), the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana (2012, 2015) and the 88th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City (2014).

Within the School of Music Jon also serves on the Commercial and Electronic Music faculty. He teaches a variety of courses including Music Technology Methods, Audio in Media, Live Sound Reinforcement, Storytelling Through Sound, and Music Notation Software. Jon also serves as Director and Arranger for "Electric Soul". This ensemble consists of vocalist, horns, and a full rhythm section performing music from the 70's to the music of today. The ensemble tours annually and has recently performed in Nashville, TN, Manteo, NC, Washington, DC, and Orlando, FL.

In 2009 Mr. Henson founded the Mountain Winds Community Band. This regional ensemble consists of members from surrounding counties and includes both adult and high school members. The ensemble has seen tremendous success and continues to grow through annual performances across the area.

Mr. Henson has been a guest presenter for many functions including the National Collegiate Athletic Band Symposium, the North Carolina Music Educators Annual Conference and also the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Conference. Jon has been a consultant for many articles referring to technology in the marching arts including “Halftime Magazine” and also the MENC magazine “Teaching Music”.

Outside of the School of Music Jon is a sought after percussion writer, adjudicator, and instructor for bands across the South East. He has taught in various public school music programs in Western North Carolina including North Buncombe High School and Tuscola High School. From 2008 through 2010 Jon served as an Assistant Director and front ensemble arranger of the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band. In 2013 and 2017 Jon served as a faculty member for the Honor Band of America in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Jon is a member of MENC, PAS, CBDNA, and is a Vic Firth, Remo, and Zildjian artist.

Jon graduated from Western Carolina University with his B.A. in Music Education (2005) and his M.A. in Music Education (2007). He is married to Nishelle Henson, a public school math teacher and lives in Sylva, NC.

Bobby richardson

Bobby Richardson - Colorguard Director

Bobby Richardson is the Color Guard Director of the WCU Pride of the Mountains Color Guard. Bobby has marched in Carolina Visual Productions, First Flight Winter Guard and The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps.  He has held staff positions for a number of nationally competitive programs including Cary High School, Northern Nash High School, Smithfield Selma High School and First Flight World.  Bobby currently serves as the Color Guard Coordinator on the Executive Board of Directors for Atlantic Indoor Association. Bobby lives in Asheville, NC where he works as a graphic designer and owner of a marketing and promotions company. In his spare time Bobby enjoys photography, being outside with his dogs and enjoying the WNC Mountains.

Douglas Thrower

Douglas Thrower is a free-lance composer/arranger/ trumpeter from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  He has been the arranger for the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps from Canton, Ohio since 1997. He has instructed and arranged for many bands and drum corps including The Troopers, Dutch Boy, the Kiwanis Kavaliers and the Canadian Knights (1986 Class A World Champions). He currently composes and arranges for numerous high schools and universities. In addition to marching music he arranges for various ensembles, jazz and symphonic, as well as theater groups.

Doug studied with Don Johnson at Humber College in Toronto and studied jazz performance at McGill University in Montreal. He has recorded performances for the C.B.C. and can be heard on four recordings with the McGill Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Gordon Foote.

Doug, with his wife Evelyn Blackwell, have two daughters, Shelby and Claire.

jamey thompson

Jamey Thompson, Visual Designer from Chicago, Illinois, has been involved in marching band and drum and bugle corps for over thirty years. “I’ve greatly respected David’s many contributions to the activity. To work with him and have to opportunity to design for the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is a tremendous honor.”

Jamey was the Visual Designer for Phantom Regiment from 2005-2007 and 2011-2014; Madison Scouts from 2003-2004; and the Glassmen from 1997-2002.  He was recently named Visual Designer for Atlanta CV Drum & Bugle Corps from Atlanta, GA for the 2015 season and returns for his fifth season with three-time WAMSB Champion Calgary Stampede Showband, from Calgary, Canada. Previous DCA credits include Connecticut Hurricanes from 2008-2014 and Empire Statesmen from 2001-2006. Marching band projects include programs throughout the United States, including bands in Florida, Indiana and Texas.

Jamey graduated with a B.B.A. from Loyola University Chicago and worked in not-for-profit accounting and arts-management before dedicating his time exclusively to the pageantry arts.

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