CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- The University of Northern Iowa marching band has a record number of members this year. The band's director is using innovative tactics to attract and retain students.
The band has swelled to 280 students; that's 124 more than when Danny Galyen took over as the Panther marching band director in 2007.
"When students leave their hometown and come to college for the first time, they leave the social support system they've had their whole life," Galyen said. "They need a social support group to help them be successful, and the band is that group."
Galyen noticed the band wasn't doing a lot of recruiting at smaller, rural schools in the state. So he started deploying small groups of UNI band upperclassmen to play along with area high school pep bands, encouraging students to join the Panther band.
It worked on Micayla Dawson, a freshman music education major and trumpet player. She decided to join marching band when a UNI music student and alum from her high school in Atkins came to play along with a pep band performance.
"He'd have marching band pamphlets, and he'd them out saying, 'Join the Panther marching band,'" Dawson said.
She said she'll return to her former high school this year and encourage peers to join the ranks.
"It shows that you can go to a small school and still do what you really want in life," she said.
Galyen also decided to modernize the music selection when he took charge, incorporating pop artists like Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Macklemore in the band's repertoire.
Joshua Carlo, a freshman tenor saxophone player from Cedar Falls, said that sets the Panther band apart.
"A lot of other bands play simple stuff that's easy to memorize, but we pick challenging literature and get it on the field. It's pretty incredible," he said.
Carlo was on the fence between attending either UNI or the University of Iowa until a few Panther band members visited his high school and invited him to sit in with the Panther pep band.
"That was a big push, like this was cool and really exciting, and I didn't get that kind of feeling at the University of Iowa," he said. "I thought, this feels like home and I want to stay here."
Galyen's recruitment initiatives parallel UNI's effort to recharge falling student enrollment this year.
UNI President Bill Ruud highlighted the band's expansion at the last Iowa Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 11.
"We are absolutely thrilled to have a marching band of this caliber leading our Panther spirit and pride," Ruud said.
UNI's marching band is also unique because there is no audition to join, unlike bands at Iowa State University or the University of Iowa. And Galyen said that's how he wants it.
"We feel like if they don't play with us in the marching band, they're not going to play ever again after high school," he said. "We like to take students regardless of ability level."
See UNI BAND, page A10
UNI band members sit in
with high school pep bands