West Liberty University Getting the Band Back Together

Photo by Joselyn King West Liberty University students who were members of the school’s former band perform following Thursday’s announcement the marching band will return next fall. WLU eliminated its band program in late 2015.

WHEELING — The West Liberty University band program will march again starting in September 2018, leading the WLU Foundation to beat the drum and raise funds for as many as 50 band scholarships that will become available.

WLU President Stephen Greiner announced Thursday the band will return next year, and that all band members will receive scholarships. WLU eliminated its band program in late 2015 amid budget concerns, and since then there has been a chorus of requests to strike up the band once again at WLU football games and other area events.

School officials expect there could be as many as 50 members in the WLU band once it is marching in full.

“We have wanted to do this for some time,” Greiner said after the announcement.

“There were talks with faculty and staff who believed the band to be a time-honored tradition at West Liberty University.”

He explained finances still are a concern at WLU, but the opportunity to bring back the band arose as an employment position came open in the music department. The job description for this position will be rewritten to include the extra duties of band director, and a part-time assistant director for the drum line may be hired.

In addition, the WLU Foundation will seek to increase funding for scholarships as the school recruits band members.

Greiner took over as WLU president shortly after the band was eliminated in late 2015, and he was not involved in the making the choice more than two years ago.

“The choice to eliminate a program is one of the toughest decisions a university has to make,” he said.

“There are some decisions you don’t want to make, but they are easier. I can tell you it was a much easier decision to bring back the band.”

Greiner said he has been giving the heads-up to local high school principals that the band will return, and that the university would be giving band scholarships.

Matt Harder, dean of the WLU College of Arts and Communication, said band uniforms and some instruments remain in the music department at the school and will not need to be purchased again.

A nationwide search for a band director will begin in the coming weeks, with interviews coming late this year and in early 2018. WLU officials want the new band director to take over the job in July.

Harder said the band is an important part of the WLU community, and a past fixture at football games and community events.

“The band is a walking billboard for the university, and it will be built from scratch,” he said. “We may not see a full band happen in the fall. It usually takes six months to build up a band, and someone is only going to get one month.”

The band will be open to all WLU students, and not just music majors, he said.

WLU student Jason Sivert was among four members of the former WLU band who performed following Thursday’s announcement, which took place in the Hoge Quadrangle on the WLU campus.

Sivert said he plans to rejoin the band next fall as he completes his senior year.

He said it would give him a second opportunity to be a band member, and to participate in and share experiences with the band community.

“The community wants to see a band, and we want to be in a band,” said Shane Powell, who will also be a senior.

Powell credited his experiences in the marching band with inspiring him to want a career in music.

He was a member of the band at McGuffey High School in Washington, Pa., and then for two years at WLU. He is now applying to graduate school to continue his education.

Joining Sivert and Powell were former band members Gabriella Saporito and Rachel Krems.

“Topper the Bear” was present for the announcement, as were members of the WLU cheerleading squad.