Photo courtesy of the “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band
The University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte recently received a $2 million donation from alumni Vickie and Gene Johnson in order to start a marching band.
“I was hired this year to take on the task of developing and putting together the marching band,” says Jeff Miller, director of athletic bands. “Football came to the university two years ago, and at the time, there were discussions of a marching band. There was a five- or 10-year window that the marching band would fall in.”
Knowing that it might take a long time to start a marching band, the Johnsons spoke to the chancellor personally about at least starting a drumline. “It became a pretty quick process once there was approval to run forward and start a drumline,” Miller says. “Gene was integral in providing a large sum of money to initially get that funded.”
The Johnsons realized that “a marching band is the missing piece of the puzzle that will complete the game day experience,” Miller says. “They have felt very strongly about this project from the very beginning.”
With the Johnsons’ help, the drumline began performing in August 2013 along with the football team. The full UNC Charlotte “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band, comprised of an estimated 150 students, will take the field in fall 2015.
A portion of the donation will go toward the construction of a band facility, to be named the Vickie and Gene Johnson Marching Band Center. Another part of the donation will go toward scholarships and an endowment fund.
Having a marching band is also a great recruiting tool for the university. “Starting a marching band now provides an opportunity for students to stay closer to home and … stay in marching band,” Miller says. “It’s a pleasure for me to talk to students and people who are interested in marching band. They are excited to come, and it’s exciting to share that surprise with them.”