Wayland instrumental program enjoying growth again

Tucked into his office just off the band hall, Tim Kelley remarks on the active program as an instrumentalist outside his door works on scales.

"It's hardly ever quiet around here," he smiles, revealing a satisfaction in the fact.

Things have changed quite a bit since Kelley first took the helm as director of instrumental studies at Wayland Baptist University six years ago. In those days, only 11 students were enrolled in the main instrumental ensemble, a drastic drop from the band's more prolific days in the 1970s and 80s when enrollment was high and the group was quite active.

Despite the initial challenges, Kelley and students involved over the years have succeeded in building the program back into a reputable and visible entity for the university. But it didn't take any magical formula, he said.

"We've really worked hard - the students too - to develop quality and integrity in the program so people would want to be involved. But it's an ongoing process," Kelley said. "A lot of it was building a level of expectation and developing goals for the group. What we've done is raise the visibility of the ensemble so people see us on campus and off, where we do most of the recruiting."

The recruiting has been key, Kelley said. By being involved in the community through performances at numerous events and by sponsoring the annual Marching Band Festival in October, the group has become more recognized and respected. The result has been an increase in interest by students who want to continue their band involvement in college, whether as a major or just as a sideline activity.

Where the program once numbered in the teens, more than 100 students now are involved. About half are music majors, while the rest come from every other discipline on campus. Students have appreciated the program's two-fold growth - in quality and in numbers - as well.

"I think our sound quality-wise has grown," said Samantha Jones, a junior music education major who has been in band for three years. "Our recruitment has been in the local schools and it's paying off. We're getting better quality students."

Third-year band student Justin Ogden, a junior who recently changed his major to music education, came to Wayland from the prestigious Plainview High band program.

"The band was a definite magnet that kept me here," he said. "It was a big change from high school but was a smaller, more personal atmosphere. And that's one thing that hasn't changed even though we've grown - that family atmosphere."

A trumpet player, Ogden said he believes he has grown musically over the years right along with the band program and said that encouragement to improve oneself is a strong point for the Wayland program. He now hopes to pursue a career as a band teacher and director.

A natural result of the program's growth and improvement is its activity, and the various groups that make up instrumental studies stay busy. From rehearsals and concerts to helping host numerous UIL band contests at Wayland facilities, students are rarely without something to do.

For Wayland, the most unique component of the instrumental program is the marching band. But what does a marching band do at a university with no football program of its own?

"We have people ask that all the time," Kelley chuckles. "We do it because the music education students need the experience they'll use in teaching. Also, it's great recruitment for Wayland and is one of the most visible ensembles here."

Boasting about 60 members, the marching band rehearses on campus during the fall. It performs at area high school football games and does some exhibition performances for their marching band festival, which they host at Plainview High School's stadium. They also perform a program at Wayland's homecoming basketball games and march in several parades. Its spring counterpart is the Concert Band, with about 50 members.

Another active group is the basketball pep band. Comprised of about 25 students, that group keeps spirits high at most Wayland home basketball games and played at the recent Sooner Athletic Conference tournament held in Lubbock. The jazz ensemble, with 18-20 members, performs at some WBU basketball games and participates in music department concerts. Another visible and active group is the brass quintet, which performs often at civic events, school activities, churches, club meetings and worship programs.

Though the natural reaction is to think of the band and other musical programs as performance ventures, Kelley is quick to point out the deeper purpose that keeps them all working hard.

"This is an academic division like any other," he said. "Though what we teach lends itself to performance, we are also teaching important skills. When they see our performances, they are seeing the results of lots of hours of work in the classroom."

He said performing for the students is still important, though, since it helps them to hone their skills and gives them a chance to be recruiting ambassadors for the university. Dr. Carl Moman, chairman of the Fine Arts division, agrees.

"(The band) is a great recruitment tool and we've been able to strengthen our ties with area communities and band directors through it," Moman said. "We bring in thousands for UIL competitions and those things have helped us on and off campus."

While it would be easy to get comfortable with the growth thus far, Kelley said the band program still has far to go.

"It's been exciting to see where we are and where we've been, but there are still a lot of goals ahead of us," he said. "But we're getting better students and a better commitment - more of a realization of what it takes to be in a college program. There's not as much of a time commitment but you get people who really want to be here."