Earlier this month, the Stevenson University band completed its inaugural season. Find out how this fledgling band exceeded expectations and about its plans for future growth.
Photo courtesy of the Stevenson University Marching Band
For many colleges and universities in the United States, marching band has been a part of the institution’s long history, and many have become well known to the general public. One institution, though, is creating history right now with its very first marching band coinciding with the establishment of an official football team. Stevenson (Md.) University, founded as Villa Julie College in 1947, put director Mark Lortz to the task of forming a fully trained and disciplined band. Lortz used his previous experience as a successful high school band director to field the fledgling Stevenson University Marching Band in its inaugural season.
Halftime: How did you get your start at Stevenson?
Lortz: Stevenson advertised nationally for the position of marching band director after the school formed its first official football team. I interviewed for the job and was chosen. Before coming to Stevenson, I had taught at Westminster (Md.) High School for 15 years; the band was a strong BOA [Bands of America] powerhouse. I’m also the director of the Buccaneers Drum and Bugle Corps at Drum Corps Associates.
Halftime: What allowed the Stevenson University Marching Band to start forming now?
Lortz: About two years ago, the university president wanted to have a football team, so what he said was that if you have a team, you have to have a marching band. Football started its first year last year, and this year I had to scramble in order to recruit people over the summer. We had a huge media blitz in which we had an article written about us in the local newspaper, formed a Facebook page, sent mailers and started our own website. We worked with university admissions to identify potential members due to their interest in band and dance. We are giving each person who joins the band a $500 grant as a form of encouragement to come join.
It was extremely hectic, but we accomplished the task and got the necessary members in time for August band camp. Right we have about 75 students in the band, which doubled our goal of about 34. We managed to get sponsored by Yamaha, Vic Firth and Zildjian.
Halftime: How did you set up the band’s infrastructure?
Lortz: The university will be funding the band to the point where the students have no expenses. I have also created a student executive board in which I have a band president and vice president, who were elected by the members of the band themselves. They function as the main liaisons from the directors to the members. I interviewed potential section leaders who usually were members with a lot of experience in marching band.
Halftime: What is the band’s style?
Lortz: We are going to be a contemporary corps-style band where members will learn the marching style like in drum corps. We will also incorporate urban style dancing with rock and roll music and contemporary hits such as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” so the students can enjoy themselves and feel connected. The bands that we look up to for inspiration would be bands like the University of Maryland or the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as these East Coast bands have become staples of what people see … in the region.
Halftime: What is your vision for the future?
Lortz: I would like to have a band that is representative of three to five percent of the student population eventually. Right now we are at about two percent of the student body. Right now, we are just playing at home football games for our first year. I would try to have one road game a year to something like a divisional rival’s school. I would love to be at high school competitions where we can be showcased as an exhibition band. The same goes for BOA or USSBA [U.S. Scholastic Band Association] events. This will allow us to be known to even more people in the marching band setting.
About the Author
Jeremy Chen is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California (USC). He marched cymbals for two years at Rancho Cucamonga High School before playing bass drum and snare at Upland High School. He is currently a cymbal player and office staff member for the USC Trojan Marching Band. He aspires to one day become a correspondent for the BBC.