1963 to Present
In late 1963, Major John F. Yesulaitis was hired to take over the athletic portion of the band program. Major Yesulaitis was a native of Pennsylvania and had been in the United States Air Force for 27 years prior to moving to Chapel Hill in 1964. Major Y, as he was called by the students, had started his Air Force career as a french hornist in the Air Force Band and spent the last 16 years of his career as the Associate Conductor of the Air Force Band and Symphony Orchestra based in Washington, D.C. Earl Slocum retired from the University in 1967 and Major Yesulaitis remained in charge of the UNC Bands until his retirement in 1989.
During his 25 years of service to the University, he established many traditions that are still part of UNC athletic events. The basketball pep band, while successful during the two years it operated under the leadership of McClelland and other students, became part of the UNC Bands in 1965, and with the success of Carolina basketball, became known for its performances in Carmichael Auditorium and around the country. It was also during this time that the UNC Bands were moved from the Music Department to the Office of Student Affairs. The UNC Bands consisted of the Marching Band, the Pep Band and a Concert Band while the Wind Ensemble remained in the Music Department. During much of Major Y’s tenure as Director of the UNC Bands he was assisted by Allen Reep, while Wind Ensemble had several conductors including Hubert Henderson, David Reed and James Arrowood.
In 1989, the UNC Bands were reunited with the Wind Ensemble in the Music Department and James Hile was hired to serve as Director of Bands. Hile came to UNC from the University of Illinois where he had worked closely with Harry Begian. Dr. Hile worked diligently to consolidate the bands at UNC and create what today is the UNC Bands. It was during Dr. Hile’s tenure that the band again became known as, “The Pride of the ACC” and dropped the “Band of Champions” moniker, which was adopted during the late 1980’s. Matt Savage began working with the drumline in 1990 and was appointed Assistant Director of Bands in 1994. He resigned in 1995 from that position and remains active with the bands, serving as the Marching Percussion Instructor.
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Jeffrey Fuchs joined the faculty at UNC as the Assistant Director of Bands in August, 1995 and was promoted to his current position as Director of University Bands in January, 1997. Michael Votta, Jr. served as the interim conductor of the UNC Wind Ensemble during the 1996 – 1997 academic year and joined the faculty as Associate Professor of Music and Conductor of the UNC Wind Ensemble in August, 1997. He left Carolina in 2008 and joined the faculty at the University of Maryland. Brian Doyle was appointed Assistant Director of Bands and Instructor of Saxophone in August 1997 and served in that position until August, 2002, when he resigned to pursue a doctoral degree from the University of Michigan. Matthew McClure, a native of Knoxville, TN and a graduate of the University of Tennessee was appointed Assistant Director of Bands on July 1, 2003. UNC alum Stephen Lytle returned to Carolina to serve as Interim Assitant Director of Bands during the 2007-08 academic year. Evan Feldman was appointed Assistant Professor of Music and Conductor of the Wind Ensemble in 2008.
The 400 students involved in the UNC Bands enjoy involvement in a campus organization that provides immediate identity and purpose. The UNC Bands encourage and promote academic excellence with rehearsal and performance schedules that are compatible with the student’s academic requirements. Music majors and students pursuing degrees in other fields are able to participate without compromising their academic pursuits.
The UNC Bands remain dedicated to maintaining the musical traditions and integrity of the University. In previous years, the various ensembles have performed in the 54th Presidential Inaugural Parade, Carnegie Hall, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, several bowl games and numerous ACC and NCAA tournaments, including the 2005 National Championship game won by the Tar Heels men’s basketball team.