Update: FAMU Names Sylvester Young As New Marching Band Director

May 7, 2013

Florida A & M University has tapped a former Ohio band director to lead the school’s “Marching 100” band. FAMU, even as the organizations remain under suspension.

Dr. Sylvester Young says it took friends and colleagues calling constantly to get him to apply for the job. The 66-year-old Young had been retired since stepping down from a 25-year stint as Band Director at Ohio University, but says he viewed the FAMU position as the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Very few people have an opportunity to go back to their first love, and in a very different capacity and a meaningful way," Young said Tuesday.

Young is a FAMU alumus, having marched in the band during the 1960’s. Still, he spent most of his professional career outside of Florida. He says watching the school band’s hazing saga from afar was painful, but he’s convinced he’s the one to turn it around by instituting a cultural change:

“We just can’t put them back on the field as if nothing happened. They have to have a totally different mindset about why they’re in the band and what this performance means.”  

So far, reactions to Young’s appointment have been mixed.

“I’m confident that he’ll do a good job...I’m just waiting to see how much the university will allow him to do the job," said Kachi Ukpadi, a former clarinet section leader and Pharmacy Student at FAMU.

Victor Gaines, President of the Marching 100 Alumni Association, says he’s pleased with the pick:

“I love it. Him being in this position provides stability to the program. He’s got 25 years of experience, he’s conducted bands before, he’s been through some of the thing we’re going through now and I think that’s what we need at this time.... Someone to keep the foundation strong," Gaines said.

Meanwhile the window of time to put a band back together is closing fast.  The Marching 100 band was suspended following the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. That’s left an entire year with no recruiting, negative publicity and members who have been out of practice for a while. FAMU’s interim president says he’ll decide soon on whether to lift the band’s suspension. The school is working to address accreditation concerns stemming from the hazing death, along with a wrongful death lawsuit by the Champion family.

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Breaking: Florida A&M University is set to name a new director of bands today. The University has set a noon press conference to make the announcement.

The move comes four months after negotiations with the school's previous finalist for the job, North Carolina Central Band Director Jorim Reid, fell through.

Meanwhile, the school's Marching 100 band has remained under suspension following the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.

The University has also recently named a band compliance officer. Earlier in the year it appointed an "hazing czar" to oversee all of the school's student groups and activities programs.

Check back later on for more on this story.

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