Homecoming festivities highlighted by UCA Band Alumni performance

The year 2014 will mark 100 years of melody, music and marching at the University of Central Arkansas. The UCA Band Alumni are in the planning stages of special events and concerts to commemorate the occasion, including special emphasis at the 2013 Homecoming for the Alumni Band.

Back in 1914, fewer than 10 years after the university’s founding, student musicians were banding together to support the school’s football and basketball teams.

That tradition continues during the upcoming 2013 Homecoming festivities, when the UCA Bear Marching Band and Alumni Band members will perform together during pre-game activities and will tailgate before the game. Alumni Band members will play the university’s fight song and alma mater and support the band during the Homecoming game on Oct. 26.

“We have between 25 and 50 members each year in the Alumni Band,” said Jackie Lamar, professor of saxophone. “We would love to have a lot more this year, to really show the band’s impact during its 100 years at UCA.”

The university’s first band, organized around 1914, had about 20 members. It was a student-run organization, explained Lamar, adding that football and basketball games were the extent of the band’s performances. Sometime in the 1920s, the band acquired a faculty sponsor and has continue to grow since then.

Today, there are more than 200 members, with performances scheduled throughout the marching and concert seasons across Arkansas and other states.

To commemorate the band’s 100th anniversary, special guest alumni will be soloing with the band at concerts in Arkansas and in Dallas’ Meyerson Symphony Center, home of the Dallas Symphony. Guest alumni soloists include a professor of trombone at University of North Texas at Denton, and another who is a clarinetist with the U.S. Air Force Band.

A special piece has been commissioned by renowned composer David Gillingham, but is still being written, according to Dr. Ricky Brooks, director of bands.

Other events, including concerts and reunions will be held beginning January, according to Lamar.

“Alumni Band at Homecoming is our opportunity to give back to the university and see each other again,” Lamar said. Alumni Band members also raise funds for the UCA band scholarship fund.

Events to celebrate the 100th anniversary have been in the planning stages since last year, when new Associate Director of Bands Brantley Douglas, who had been part of a 100th-year band celebration when a student at University of Wisconsin — Madison, came upon the information about the first UCA band in a book written by a retired music faculty member.

“He said ‘Do you realize that in 2014 we will have the 100th anniversary of the band?’” Lamar recalled. “We worked with others to get more historic information for this celebration.”

There are currently more than 700 band alumni on the music department’s mailing list, but Lamar said there is always room for more involvement.Band Alumni include any UCA alumni who have ever been in the band.

Lamar said there would be further announcements about upcoming 100th anniversary events as plans are completed. Alumni who plan to play in the Alumni Band should contact Lamar or Dr. Ricky Brooks to have an accurate head count and secure any needed instruments.

“We are so excited for this year’s Alumni Band,” Lamar said. “We encourage our Band Alumni to participate in this year’s Homecoming.”

For more information about the Alumni Band or anniversary happenings, contact Lamar at (501) 450-5763 or jackiel@uca.edu; or Dr. Brooks at (501) 450-5764 or rickyb@uca.edu. There is also a Facebook group for UCA band alumni.