History of the Band Program at Grand Valley State University
The first official band program at Grand Valley State University started in 1977, five years after the opening of the Performing Arts Center, which currently houses the theatre, dance, and music programs. The first band director at Grand Valley State University (then Grand Valley State College) was Mr. William Root, one of Michigan’s leading music educators. In his ten year career at GVSU, Mr. Root formed the original Laker Marching Band, and also conducted the Concert Band at the Midwestern Music Conference. This band would eventually become the Symphonic Wind Ensemble at Grand Valley, the highest-quality performing group on campus. Mr. Root also composed the university’s high-energy fight song, “GVSU Victory,” in his tenure as director of bands at GVSU. “GVSU Victory” was officially introduced in 1978, and the music has only undergone minor changes since that time.
After Mr. Root’s retirement in 1987, Mr. Dennis Svendsen became the director of bands at GVSU. The number of ensemble participants was steadily increasing, and by the time Mr. Svendsen left and Mr. Ronald Hornish arrived in 1990, a second band was added to the program. This band was very small in its early years, and did not have the instrumentation or the talent to perform difficult band literature. Symphonic Wind Ensemble, however, became an auditioned group at this time, and the quality of playing increased greatly. During the mid 90’s, the band program at GVSU experienced a huge surge in enrollment, and the second band (which eventually came to be known as Concert Band) began to thrive.
After Mr. Hornish’s career at GVSU came to an end in 1993, Mr. Barry Martin became the director of bands the following year. There were still two concert bands; Symphonic Wind Ensemble, which was comprised strictly of music majors, and Concert band, which had music majors and non-music majors playing alongside one another. The Laker Marching Band was steadily growing as well, and in 2001, Mr. Ted Bazany was hired and became an assistant director of the marching band. By 2003, there were nearly 100 people enrolled in Concert Band. At this time, another director was hired to help with the ever-growing band program. Dr. Kevin Tutt began his career at Grand Valley in 2003, and currently conducts the Symphonic Wind Ensemble. In 2004, a third band (University Band) was added to the program. This band was meant specifically for non-music majors or music education majors on secondary instruments, and was conducted by Mr. Bazany. In 2006, Mr. Kevin York became the director of the Laker Marching Band, whose enrollment ballooned to over 150 members, and the University and Basketball Pep Bands as well. In 2009, John T. Martin was named Director of Athletic Bands.
Today, there are over 340 people enrolled in the band program at Grand Valley State University. This program is quickly gaining national recognition, with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble performing major band literature such as Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy, Grantham’s Southern Harmony, and Copland’s Emblems. The Symphonic Wind Ensemble has also been invited to play at the 2010 College Band Director's National Association (CBDNA) North Central Division Conference at Illinois State University, in Normal, IL. SWE has also played at the Michigan Music Conference three times. Both are quite an accomplishment, as the Symphonic Wind Ensemble is comprised of entirely undergraduate students.
Page last modified February 10, 2014