The Beginning: An ROTC Band (1920-1929)
In the fall of 1920, Mr. Ralph A. Van Wye, a student in the college of Engineering, had just returned to the University of Cincinnati after a tour of duty in the US Army during World War I as an Army Bandsmen. At the time, ROTC was compulsory for all male students at the University of Cincinnati. Since Mr. Van Wye had just completed two years of Army service, he did not feel obligated to continue as a member of ROTC on campus, requesting to have his requirement waived. However, when the Commandant saw that he was an Army Bandsmen, he told Mr. Van Wye that he was just the man they needed. They wanted to organize an ROTC band, but had no one available to serve as bandmaster. Rather than being excused from ROTC, Mr. Van Wye was appointed as bandmaster to the first University of Cincinnati ROTC band. That fall Mr. Ralph A. Van Wye held his first rehearsal in one of the laboratories in the College of Engineering. Eight members were in attendance. Looking back on the group, Mr. Van Wye humorously remarked, "The only letter we could form was the letter I". Mr. Van Wye continued as band director until his graduation in the spring of 1923.
In September of 1923, Sergeant Victor Norling transferred from Ft. Thomas, Kentucky to the ROTC detachment at the University of Cincinnati as the second band director. He remained in this position until 1929. Throughout these first nine years, the UC Band was an ROTC band, administered by the ROTC unit. In addition to performing at all ROTC functions, it also presented half-time shows at UC football games. At the Nippert Stadium Dedication Day game between Oberlin College and UC on November 8, 1924, the band made its first appearance in uniforms. In 1925, the bandsmen initiated the idea of the coed band sponsor, and in the same year elected Julia E. Sale their first band sponsor. Candidates from local sororities would be nominated for the band sponsor, who would then be selected each year at the band’s annual Fall banquet. This single female bandmember would provide a social “in” to the world of dating for the all male band. During Sgt. Norling's tenure as director, the UC Band also began making trips with the team to some of the away football games.
The Transitioning Years: A Student Group (1929-1942)
In 1929 Colonel R. A. Aderegg, Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering, was appointed faculty advisor to the band. In the fall of 1929, Merrill B. Van Pelt assumed the position of director of the UC Band. At this point the band shifted from an ROTC band to a student activity for all male students on campus. Up to this point, all membership had been from the College of Engineering. Mr. Van Pelt looked to change this and began recruiting students from other colleges. Among his recruiting efforts was the development of the "Varsity Vanities", a musical review sponsored by the UC Band in which students from all colleges and groups participated.
During the 1930's the UC Band gained a national reputation at football games. Mr. Van Pelt and the UC Band were one of the first to use animated formations and dance steps in football halftime shows. The band also traveled extensive ly during these years.
World War II: Incorporation of Bandswomen (1942-1949)
The rise of World War II put an end to football games after the fall season of 1942. While the band stopped marching, it did not stop playing. Combined concerts with the Conservatory Symphonic Band were held, while the band also played for all formal military functions and War Band Rallies.
Throughout the first twenty-three years of its existence, the membership of the band was only men. However Due to the recruitment needs of World War II, only two bandsmen were left on campus from previous years by the fall of 1944. At this time, the UC Band began accepting women for membership on a temporary basis. For the remainder of World War II, membership in the band was predominately female. Then with the close of World War II in 1945, football games resumed and the UC Band returned to perform on the football field, both men and women. The return of older band members in 1946 though created tension within the UC Band. Many of the returning men felt that the band should revert to its all male status. Their case eventually lost, and the band officially became coed. The 1946-1947 school year was highlighted by a trip to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, as the UC Football Team made its first appearance in a major bowl game. In the spring of 1947, Mr. Van Pelt submitted his resignation in order to devote full time to his responsibilities as Supervisor of Instrumental Music in the Cincinnati Public Schools.
The search for a new director brought Mr. Clarence E. Mills to the UC Band as its the fourth overall director and first full time director. Mr. Mills had recently been released from the Army where he had served as an Army bandmaster during World War II. He served as director from 1947 to 1949, completely reorganizing and branching the band into a precise, intricate marching Bearcat Band, two pep bands and an intramural band. Varsity Vanities continued, along with a Band Clinic that proved successful for area high school bands. It was during this period that the concert band began its development. In 1949 Mr. Mills left the University of Cincinnati in order to return to the Army as Special Services Officer.
The Expansion Years: The Bearcat Bands (1949-1970)
Mr. Robert Hamilton served as director of the band from 1949 until the spring of 1954, when he left to take a position in California. Mr. Hamilton introduced the "story-telling maneuver", adding a new dimension to half-time entertainment.
In the spring of 1954, Dr. Roy Robert Hornyak became the sixth director of the UC Band. That fall he introduced the famed CHARGE down the stadium steps, and in 1955 he established the Bearkittens drill team. Due to the increased scope of the activities of the band, 1955 also saw the name of the organization changed to the plural: The University of Cincinnati Bearcat Bands.
The UC Band's first Band Camp convened in the fall of 1958. Later that same year the band was spotlighted on national television as they performed at Chicago's Wrigley Field for a Chicago Bears game. In 1959 the Bearcat Varsity Band joined the Concert Band and the Marching Band as one of the three basic units within the band organization. In 1964, a Stage Band program was initiated and quickly grew under the leadership of Mr. John Defoor, a former arranger for the UC Bands. In 1968 the Brass Band was discontinued and absorbed by the CCM Symphonic Band. The University Band program was incorporated into the College Conservatory of Music around this time as well. Due to increasing demands upon his ti me from other CCM obligations, Dr. Hornyak completed his tenure as director of the UC Bands in the spring of 1970.
The Seventies: Searching for Stability (1970-1979)
In September 1970, Dr. Robert Wojciak became the seventh director of the UC Bands. The band saw many national appearances through performing at Cincinnati Reds and Bengal games.
In 1972, Harry McTerry took over as director of the UC Bands and focused on improving the driving marching and playing style of the UC Marching Band. The UC Band also performed at the 1972 National League Play-offs and World Series.
In 1973, Prof. Woodrow Hodges became the ninth director of the UC Bands. During his tenure the band saw much travel with trips to Philadelphia, Disney World, Athens, Georgia, and Louisville. The band was met with great enthusiasm with each trip and received praise for its outstanding performances. The UC Marching Band also performed at the 1975 National League Play-offs and World Series, the 1976 World Series and a Monday Night Football for the Cincinnati Bengals. During Mr. Hodges tenure more emphasis was placed on the basketball Varsity Band. Under the leadership of "Woody", the UC Band was well known for its high-stepping marching style, original music arrangements, and powerful sound. After four action packed years, Mr. Hodges left to take a position in Wisconsin.
The fall of 1977 marked the arrival of the tenth UC Marching Band director, Prof. Glenn Richter, former assistant director of the University of Texas Longhorn Band. Mr. Richter introduced the "show band" techniques of the southern marching bands, and created the UC Band Flag Corps, incorporating a new color and dimension to the band's performances. After two years with the UC Band, Mr. Richter headed further north to accept a position as director of the University of Michigan marching band.
Into the Modern Era: The Return of the CHARGE (1979-1994)
Dr. Terence G. Milligan, former director of the Northwest Missouri State University Bands, became the eleventh Director of Bands at UC in 1979. During "Doc's" time, the band went through a style change to the glide step that is currently used. In the fall of 1981, Dr. Milligan introduced the Rifle Line to complete the UC Color Guard. Dr. Milligan also reintroduced the tradition of charging down the stadium steps during pre-game that had been lost over the years. In the winter of 1986, students in the band organized the "Varsity Clown Band", which entertained the crowds at basketball games throughout the season. Although popular with the crowd, the Clown Band was disbanded after only two years of performance. In 1987 Mr. Eugene Corporon took the position as Director of Wind Studies at CCM. His new position at UC included responsibility for the Bearcat Bands, and so in the fall of 1988 he instituted "Campus Band". This new band was designed as a year round concert band open to all students, faculty, and employees at the University of Cincinnati. Due to changes in the athletic department and the introduction of a new University Dance Team, the Bearkittens were disbanded in the fall of 1989.
In 1993, the Bearcat Bands were dropped from CCM funding and for a brief period, the band found itself completely independent of any university sponsorship. Mr. Matthew McInturf, a CCM graduate student, was hired as the interim director of the UC Bands. In the spring of that year, the band was officially transferred from C CM to the Athletic Department. The band also went to an off campus location for band camp, the first time since it was moved on campus by Dr. Milligan. Student members in the band were very excited with the leadership change and off-site band camp, which created a much improved marching band for the 1993 season.
A New Era: The Modern Band (1994-Present)
In the fall of 1994, the beginning of the marching season brought Dr. Terren Frenz, Sr. to the UC Band as the thirteenth director. Under the baton of Dr. Frenz, several changes helped the UC Band evolve into a much more effective unit. The leadership of the band was transferred from the students of band council, who had been running the band in recent years, to Dr. Frenz.
The 1990's were a time of great improvement in the image of the UC Band. New uniforms, provided by the university administration, gave the Band a much-needed face-lift. These new contemporary style uniforms debuted at the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho in 1997. This trip marked the first bowl trip for the Bearcats since the Sun Bowl in 1956. However, bowl trips would become almost a regular occurrence at the turn of the century as the football team continued to improve.
The year 1999 led to many innovations, including the first appearance of the UC Band at a professional football game in recent history when the Bengals celebrated their last game in Riverfront Stadium. Dr. Frenz would continue this relationship with the Bengals for many years to come. Also in 1999, the band welcomed assistant director Mr. David Martin, who would serve the band for over a decade. The same year, the Bearcat Bands was incorporated as its own independent Department under the Office of Student Life.
In the Spring of 2000, the band was finally presented with a new, "temporary" facility in Armory Fieldhouse. This marked the first real home for the Bearcat Bands in almost 25 years and replaced its previous lodgings in the basement of Laurence Hall. The band would remain there until March 29, 2005 when the Rockwern Band Center was officially dedicated on May 26th, 2005. Also in 2005, the university hired an additional assistant band director, Mr. Nick Angelis, bringing the staff to 3 full time directors.
In January of 2007, the Bearcat Bands suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of University Alumna, former Drum Major, and Assistant to the Director Miss Julie Ann Benken. Julie had been posthumously awarded several recognitions including the R. Robert Hornyak Award and the Brotherhood Award for her selfless service to the University of Cincinnati Bearcat Bands until the very end.
The continued success of the basketball and football teams led to increased exposure for the band all throughout the first decade of the new millennium. Through this exposure and the development of the UC Bands as a whole, membership peaked at over 250 members in 2010. The same year, assistant director David Martin retired after many years of hard work and dedication to the UC Bearcat Bands. His retirement gave way to new assistant band director Dr. Jody Besse graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi.
1920 - 1923
Mr. Ralph Van Wye
1923 - 1929
Sgt. Victor Norling
1929 - 1947
Mr. Merrill B. Van Pelt
1947 - 1949
Mr. Clarence E. Mills
1949 - 1954
Mr. Robert Hamilton
1954 - 1970
Dr. Roy Robert Hornyak
1970 - 1972
Dr. Robert Wojciak
1972 - 1973
Mr. Harry McTerry
1973 - 1977
Dr. Woodrow Hodges
1977 - 1979
Mr. Glenn Richter
1979 - 1993
Dr. Terence Milligan
1993 - 1994
Mr. Matthew McInturf
1994 - Present
Dr. Terren L. Frenz