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, when the ROTC program at the University of Cincinnati was finally able 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 the rise of World War II put an end to football games after the fall season of 1942, the band stopped marching and shortly after, women were permitted to join on a temporary basis. In 1946, the addition of women became permanent and the band was officially coed.
A Band of Many Types
In 1947, Mr. Clarence E. Mills became the fourth and first full time director of the UC Band. With his direction, the organization expanded to include the marching band, two pep bands, and an intramural band. 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 was an influential role to the band’s tradition and pride that is viewed even today. He initiated the famed CHARGE down the stadium steps and changed the name of the organization to its plural: The University of Cincinnati Bearcat Bands.
A Time of Experimentation and Growth
The band was in search of stability after Dr. Hornyak’s departure in 1970, as the band would see four directors within the decade. The prestige of the band became known far and wide when Dr. Robert Wojciak became the seventh director in 1970. Mr. Harry McTerry improved the driving marching and playing style in 1972 as the band’s eighth director. The band traveled far and wide while Professor Woodrow Hodges was director from 1973 to 1977 and 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 and “Doc” left behind many notable impressions during his tenure, including the switch to the glide step style we use today and re-introducing the charge down the stadium steps that had been lost through the years. Dr. Milligan would go on to become the Director of Wind Studies at UC’s College Conservatory of Music.
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 was followed by the thirteenth and current director of the Bearcat Bands, Dr. Terren L. Frenz.
The Current Era
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 band 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 Dr. Frenz’s start in 1994, a scholarship program was introduced to the band, new uniforms gave the band more contemporary look, and membership increased two-fold.