Kelley recipients of Sudler Award

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University Assistant Professor of Music Tim Kelley received a little something extra in his mail last week – the culmination of a process that began 10 years earlier while he served as the director of the marching band at Auburn University.

Auburn was awarded the Sudler trophy – the highest award in the nation for college and university marching bands – and each director during the evaluation period received a plaque and poster for his or her effort in maintaining a high level of excellence over a long period of time.

“I was ecstatic to see this in the mail,” said Kelley, who served as Auburn’s director of the marching band from 1991-94. “It just kind of happened out of the blue. Since this is such a long-term thing you never know about it until it happens.”

The Sudler trophy, presented by the John Philip Sousa Foundation, is awarded annually to a college or university marching band which has demonstrated the highest musical standards and innovative marching routines and ideas, and which has made important contributions to the art over an extended period of time.

“It’s based on long-term development of the university band program,” said Kelley, who was at Auburn when the band initiated the evaluation process.

“We recorded the first set of CDs ever done by the Auburn band and had one flown aboard the Discovery space shuttle. There are high profile things we did to initiate the process. The actual awarding of it, roughly 10 years later, is kind of the culmination of them reviewing the program over an extended period of time.”

Auburn announced the award at the Citadel football game on Sept. 25 which was the 2004 Auburn Alumni Band Reunion. Kelley said each year former band members and directors are invited back to play in the stands with the current band members. He received an invitation this year, but could not make it. A few days later, he received a call informing him of the award.

The Sudler trophy, endowed by Chicago philanthropists Louis and Virginia Sudler, stands 22 ½ inches high, the length of a typical marching band step. It is a bronze cast of a drum major standing on top of a press box, high above a circular stadium, mounted on a marble base. The trophy will stay with Auburn University until it is awarded to another band next year. Each member of the band receives a certificate of award and the directors and former directors receive plaques.

The trophy was designed by the same company that designed the Heisman trophy, awarded each year to collegiate football’s best athlete.

“It’s called the Heisman of Bands,” Kelley said.

Kelley left Auburn after the 1994 marching season to return to Texas where he wanted to continue his teaching career. Kelley, who did his graduate work at the University of North Texas, had worked with many directors in the state and developed an interest in Texas music education.

“When the opportunity arose, Wayland was one of the schools that were open at the time,” he explained. “I took a look at it and felt a strong calling that has led to better things.”

Kelley has served as director of instrumental studies at Wayland since 1995.