Marching to a New Beat

September 26, 2004

Arthur Nead
Phone: (504) 865-5714

Tulane will begin stepping to a new and stirring beat this coming year.

bandThe music department has taken the lead in forming a marching band, and wielding the baton will be Barry Spanier, the university's new band director.

Spanier was most recently director of New York University's Center for Music Performance, where he directed and conducted a range of musical programs, including an 85-member symphony orchestra, a secondary orchestra, several chamber ensembles, an artist-in-residence performance series, and music for major university events.

"As band director, my responsibility first and foremost is to develop and run a marching band," says Spanier.

And along with that, he says, will be a concert band, as well.

"The marching season is more in the fall, although the marching band will be active through Mardi Gras and perform at special events that the university may have. The concert band may perform in the fall as well, but there is more of an emphasis on it in the spring."

Spanier anticipates that it will take about a year to develop the marching band, and he projects a rollout of the complete band during fall 2005. High on the list of priorities at the moment is finding qualified musicians for the band, which will have approximately 100 members at full strength.

"The band will be open to all students. Everybody is welcome, and we hope that a lot of people will join. There are many indications that this will be the case," says Barbara Jazwinski, Virginia Beer Professor of Music and chair of the Newcomb Music Department.

Prospective band members will audition to demonstrate that they have the "chops" to be an asset to the group. Spanier expects a good deal of overlap between the marching and concert bands, but notes that there are differences.

"For example, there is a very large percussion section with a marching band, but a smaller percussion section in a concert band." Spanier's own enthusiasm for music began early. "I was really involved in music as a kid," he says. "I enjoyed it and started playing trumpet around fifth grade. I was in the ensembles through junior high school--orchestra, band, Jazz--and while I was in high school I decided that I wanted to pursue it."

At the University of Southern California, he earned a degree in musical education with advanced studies in conducting and musical direction. Following graduation, he spent several years at his alma mater as associate conductor of the Trojan band and directing the band for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team.

Spanier soon turned his musical and administrative talents to a series of high-profile events, serving as band coordinator for all the live music at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, as an instructor and section leader for the 500-piece All-American College Marching Band that performed at the centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, as director of bands and head of music production at World Expo '88 in Brisbane, Australia, as production manager for the giant video wall at the Democratic National Convention in New York in 1992, and as music director of a special events production team of Robert F. Jani Productions, based in Los Angeles.

In 1992, Spanier returned to college, entering the Gallatin School at New York University, which features individualized studies designed by each student to suit their particular interests. His field of study was in musical direction and arts administration and producing. As his thesis project, he founded and produced an arts festival for Gallatin.

The objective of the thesis project was to develop a festival that would bring Gallatin students together as a community, since their individualized study programs tended to isolate them from one another. About 120 people were involved during the 12-day event and the festival has continued each year since.

Spanier has been director of the New York University Center for Music Performance since 1996, with the exception of two years in Sydney, Australia, where he served as artistic director of the 2,000-piece marching band of the 2000 Olympics, which provided music for the opening ceremonies of the games. Now at Tulane, Spanier is eager to start up a new band.

"I see this as a magical opportunity," he says. "There's real support and everybody's anxious for this to happen--in good ways. It's a great challenge and an opportunity to start something, to start a new program."

Playing in a marching band is very beneficial to students, according to Spanier. "It teaches you musical skills, leadership, administrative and physical skills. And it teaches you the self-discipline you need to be part of an ensemble--to be cohesive in the role that you play on a team. You are all responsible to each other," he says. "For me, coming through high school and college in band, it was a great experience. You meet students from other parts of the university, and it's an experience you carry with you your whole life."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000