History of the Band

The Bearcat Bands have gone through many eras of prosperity as well as uncertainty that have made us into the strong band program that we are today.

Humble Military Beginnings

It all started in the fall of 1920. That year the ROTC program at the University of Cincinnati decided to establish a band after asking Mr. Ralph A. Van Wye, a student, to serve as bandmaster upon learning that he had served as an Army Bandsman in the Great War. At his first rehearsal, the band consisted of eight members and Mr. Van Wye often said “The only letter we could form was the letter I”. Van Wye would go on to lead the band until his graduation in 1923.

Uniformed and Ready to Travel

Under the direction of Sergeant Victor Norling, the second band director, the band made its first appearance in uniforms at the Nippert Stadium Dedication Day on November 8, 1924. While still being primarily an ROTC band, the band began making trips with the football team to some away games. In 1929, Mr. Merrill B. Van Pelt became the band’s third director. At this point, the band changed from an ROTC band to a student activity for all male students on campus.

Don't You Know there is a War Going On?

Change was in the air as WWII rose and fell during Van Pelt’s tenure. When rise of World War II put an end to football games after the fall season of 1942, the band stopped marching, but continued to play. Shortly after, in 1944, women were permitted to join on a temporary basis, since there were only 2 bandsmen left on campus due to the recruitment needs of WWII. In 1946, the addition of women became permanent and the band became officially coed.

A Band of Many Types

In 1947, Mr. Clarence E. Mills became the overall fourth and first full time director of the UC Bearcat Band. With his direction, the organization expanded to include the marching Bearcat Band, two pep bands, and an intramural band. The concert band began to develop at this time as well. When Mr. Mills left in 1949, Mr. Robert Hamilton became the fifth director and introduced the “story-telling maneuver,” adding a new dimension to half-time entertainment.

Introduction of the CHARGE

The spring of 1954 brought about the band’s sixth director, Dr. Roy Robert Hornyak. Dr. Hornyak had an influential role on the band’s tradition and pride that has continued to impact the band to this day. He initiated the famed CHARGE down the stadium steps and changed the name of the organization to its current plural form: The University of Cincinnati Bearcat Bands.

A Time of Experimentation and Growth

The next several years following the departure of Dr. Hornyak would force the program to change and find stability to remain a successful organization. During the 1970s the band would see four directors and would be performing on national scales for much of the decade. The prestige of the band became known far and wide when Dr. Robert Wojciak became the seventh director in 1970, performing at Cincinnati Bengals and Reds games. Mr. Harry McTerry improved the marching and playing style in 1972 as the band’s eighth director and the band continued to perform at Reds games.
Under the tenure of Professor Woodrow Hodges, from 1973 to 1977, the band traveled far and wide, from Philadelphia and Disney World, to many other places in the country. Professor Glenn Richter introduced the UC Band Flag Corps in his two-year career as tenth director in 1977.

A Musical Leader

In 1979, Dr. Terence G. Milligan became the eleventh director of the band. “Doc” left behind many notable impressions during his tenure, including the switch to the glide step style we use today, re-introduced the famed CHARGE down the stadium steps that had been lost through the years, and introduced the Rifle Line to complete the UC Color Guard. Dr. Milligan would go on to become the Director of Wind Studies at UC’s College Conservatory of Music.

Dropped Funding

In 1993, the Bearcat Bands were dropped from the budget of CCM, and were briefly left without any university sponsorship. The band’s twelfth director Mr. Matthew McInturf, a CCM graduate student, led the band for the 1993-1994 season and the program was officially transferred from CCM to the Athletic Department in the spring of 1994. That fall Dr. Terren L. Frenz became the thirteenth director of the Bearcat Bands.

The Modern Band

Under the baton of Dr. Frenz, several changes helped the UC Bearcat Bands evolve into a much more effective unit. The leadership was transferred from the students of band council, who had been running the band in recent years, to Dr. Frenz. A Jazz Band was introduced to the program and the program saw its first full time Assistant Director who was hired on in 1999, Mr. David Martin. On May 26, 2005, the Rockwern Band Center was officially dedicated as the band’s permanent facility after years of fighting for a home. That same year, Mr. Nick Angelis was hired by the university as an additional Assistant Director and the band established its own department under the Division of Student Life. In 2010, Mr. Martin’s departure brought in Dr. Jody Besse as the band’s Associate Director, keeping the band staffed with three full time directors. Since 1994, a scholarship program has been introduced to the band, new uniforms gave the band a more contemporary look, and membership increased two-fold.

A New Direction

With the retirement of Dr. Frenz in January of 2017 Dr. Jody Besse was appointed as the Interim Director while the search for a new head director took place. Later in 2017, Mr. Angelis was promoted to Associate Director and Mr. Ander Peterson was added to the staff as the new Assistant Director. In the summer of 2017 Mr. Christopher Nichter was welcomed as the fourteenth director of the UC Bearcat Bands after working for 10 years at West Virginia University as an Assistant Director. This season Mr. Nichter planned shows for the fall that are focused on providing enjoyment to the band members and audience and has emphasized the importance of a cohesive band dynamic. The coming season holds many exciting opportunities for the Bearcat Bands and its members, that will help further the organization.