Fmr. Ohio University Band Director Marching Forward With Band Tarnished By Hazing Death

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The former band director of Ohio University’s Marching 110 says he aims to lead by example as he rebuilds the celebrated marching band at Florida A&M University whose reputation was tarnished by the hazing-related death of a band member in 2011.

FAMU named Dr. Slyvester Young director of marching and pep bands in May. Young served as director of bands at OU for six years from 1990 to 1996. Young earned his undergraduate degree in music education from FAMU in 1969.

“You fall in love with your alma mater,” Young said. “I did because it offered you so much at such a young age. And then of course going out in my career I learned so many things that you could only learn through a career, through life experiences. So coming back here I'm able to not only bring back and give the things that I've learned but also the things that I've learned that have been enhanced throughout my life and my career.”

The death of drum major Robert Champion, 26, led to the retirement of longtime band director Julian White and a 19-month suspension of the band by the university. University officials announced at the end of June that the band, known as the Marching 100, would be allowed to perform again.

Young said he will lead by example to change the culture of the band.

“It is mostly leadership but that leadership comes from experience,” Young said. “That experience will hopefully be transformed into positive policies and procedures, which will ultimately dribble down to the… smallest level of interactions between students, administrators and the university which in time will hopefully transform the culture of the band.”

According to a report by the New York Times, the university’s interim president, Larry Robinson, said he was lifting the suspension because he felt confident the university had taken enough precautions to avoid a situation similar to one that led to Champion’s death.

Young says his approach to the band is simple; first and foremost, it’s an academic class.

“This is a class and we must move from point A to point B,” he said. “When you leave this particular class you are enriched, you are a much better musician and you must be a much better citizen. So there’s more to it than just getting on the field, marching up and screaming at the football team. There is some sense and credibility to what we do and why we do it which is tied directly into the American culture.”