100 Years of UCA Band
Few things add as much excitement to college football games and other school events as a marching band. Fortunately for UCA students, fans, and alumni, the Bear Marching Band (BMB), with 220-plus members, is one of the finest in the state of Arkansas. The BMB has historically been a source of pride for everyone whose loyalties reside with UCA.
The first band was established in fall 1914, when UCA was known as Arkansas State Normal School (ASNS). The college president was J.J. Doyne, and the word “Bear” was not used to identify the band because the school did not have a mascot until 1920.
The 1914 band was made up of 22 students, 17 men and five women. All of the instruments were brass with the exception of one piccolo, one clarinet, one snare drum, and a bass drum. The band director was John Theodore Buchholz, a science professor who did not have a degree in music.
From 1914 to 1957 the band was an on-again, off-again organization that had at least 12 directors during that time frame. In 1958, Homer A. Brown, Jr. was hired as band director.
Brown provided stability for the band. Brown’s bands always put on entertaining half-time shows, and he quickly became an integral part of the UCA community. In his first year, he increased the size of the band from 47 members to an average of 90 to 100 throughout the 1970s. Brown took the Marching Bears to two presidential inaugural parades: President Lyndon B. Johnson’s in 1965 and President Richard Nixon’s in 1973. Out of respect and admiration his band members adopted the moniker, “Homer’s Heroes.”
Brown retired from UCA in 1979, and he was replaced by Conway High School Band Director Russell Langston. Like Brown, one of Langston’s priorities was increasing the size of the band. In 1985, he had one of his largest bands with about 160 members.
Under Langston, the UCA Band played as the Honor Band at the Arkansas Music Educators Association on four separate occasions and as an Honor Band at the Southwest District Convention of the College Band Directors National Association in 1988.
Langston’s successor was Dr. Ricky Brooks, the current director of bands, who came to UCA in July 1996. Under Brooks’ leadership, the UCA Wind Ensemble (the best 50 woodwind, brass, and percussion musicians) played at Carnegie Hall in New York City and at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 2002. The UCA Wind Ensemble played two concerts in Salzburg, Austria and two concerts in Vienna, Austria in 2008.
To help celebrate the UCA Band’s 100th anniversary, the Wind Ensemble commissioned a major work, “Crossover,” composed by internationally known composer David Gillingham. The Wind Ensemble performed “Crossover” and two additional works by composers Paul Dickinson and William Pitts in spring 2014 at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.
In addition to the Bear Marching Band, seven additional bands fall under the UCA Band umbrella: two Jazz Bands, the Dixieland Band, the Purple Rage pep band, and three concert bands: the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and University Band.
UCA’s Dixieland Band is under the direction of Dr. Jackie Lamar who followed in her father’s (Homer Brown) footsteps. Professors Larry Jones and Christian Carichner each direct one of the Jazz Bands, and Professor Brantley Douglas is associate director of bands.