History of The University of Akron Bands

The University of Akron Marching Band originated between 1900-1910 as an ROTC Band that performed for parades and May Day. During the early 1920’s, the ROTC association was removed from the band and a number of part-time band directors were hired—most notably Francesco DeLeone, James T. Weber, and James Campbell.

In 1938, Neill Starr, the director of the music department and a graduate of Northwestern University, thought that the ROTC band should perform at football games, and brought the band under the auspices of the music department. Starr directed the band and the twirlers became known as the “Starlettes,” a play upon the name of the first marching band director.

In 1941, Darrel “Red” Witters became the first full-time Director of Bands with a band of about 40 to 45 members. According to Don Walcott, drum major of the 1940 Band, the Marching Band met at Spicer School (a grade school which at one time was Spicer Hall) for one hour before each game to rehearse two or three marches that they would perform at the game. A typical halftime performance consisted of the band marching downfield (in straight lines) while playing these marches. At the end of the field, they would turn around, march back to mid-field, and form a stick figure “A.” They would then march directly off the field.

Between 1943 and 1945, there was no marching band or football team due to World War II. The band was reorganized in 1946 and by the early 1950’s membership had increased to around 60. In 1951, the band received a bass drum that was inside a rolling Goodyear tractor tire. Although extremely popular at games and very mobile, the drum proved difficult to play. The drum was abandoned after its first (and only) year. The Band, under the leadership of Witters, continued to perform for all home football games, in addition to Cleveland Browns games, parades, and the Soap Box Derby Parade. Witters retired in 1967.

In 1967, Richard Jackoboice became the Director of Bands at a time when the university was changing from a municipal college of 3,000 to a state university of more than 20,000 students. During this period of growth, the band membership jumped from 45 to 100 members almost overnight. Jackoboice, a graduate of the University of Michigan, developed the size and style for which The University of Akron Marching Band is noted.

In 1984, Michael Golemo, a graduate of Northwestern University and Michigan State University, became the director of the marching band. During his tenure Golemo continued the UA tradition of personally writing and arranging much of the music that the band performed while developing the symphonic sound that has become the trademark of the marching band.

In 1987, Robert D. Jorgensen became Director of Bands at The University of Akron. A graduate of the University of Illinois and Michigan State University, he has helped establish The University of Akron Band program as one of the most highly respected in the Midwest. In 1992 and 1993, while Mike Golemo was on a two-year leave, Barry D. Martin, a graduate of the University of Illinois and an alumnus of The University of Akron, became the first UA graduate to direct the marching band.

In 1994, Michael Golemo returned to The University of Akron after completing his DMA at Michigan State University. He continued the excellence in performance, which had been developed during the last decade and helped to change the style from the traditional high-step to a more contemporary style.

In 1999, Galen S. Karriker became the Assistant Director of Bands at The University of Akron. A graduate of Louisiana State University and Michigan State University, he joined The University or Akron Band Program after serving as the Assistant to the Director of Bands at The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mr. Karriker continues the excellence of performance of “Ohio’s Pride” and its reputation as one of the most respected athletic band programs in the MAC.

During the 2007 and 2008 academic years, while Galen Karriker was on a two-year sabbatical, Michael Beard, a graduate of the University of Memphis and Jody Besse, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, served the University Bands as Interim Assistant Director of Bands and Interim Director of the Marching Band.

In 2009, Galen Karriker returned to The University of Akron, after completion of his DMA at Michigan State University. He led “Ohio’s Pride” into a new era with the first marching band performance in The University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field.

In 2013, Galen Karriker was named Director of Bands, after Robert D. Jorgensen’s retirement, culminating a 26-year career at UA and 42 total years in the teaching profession. Dr. Karriker assumes the responsibility of maintaining and continuing the longstanding tradition of excellence for the UA Bands.

In 2013, Joseph Witkowski, a native of Canfield Ohio served as Interim Director of the Zips Marching Band and Assistant Director of Bands. His previous experience included membership in the Ohio State University Marching Band, service as an assistant band director in the Marion Local Schools (Dayton) and as a graduate assistant in bands at Ball State University, where he completed the Master’s Degree in Wind Conducting.

In 2014, Dr. Andrew D. Feyes, a native of Oregon Ohio, joined the UA Faculty as the Assistant Director of Bands and Director of "Ohio's Pride," The University of Akron Marching Band. He served as Interim Director of Bands at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2013. Prior to that he served as an assistant and head director at Bryan High School in Bryan, Ohio. Dr. Feyes is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and he received a master's degree in wind conducting and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction of Music Education at Kansas State University.

One of the largest and most active organizations on campus, the Marching Band performs for enthusiastic fans each year and provides the spirit, pride, and enthusiasm that are a valuable part of The University of Akron. The band’s high-energy approach to football entertainment, combining movement and computerized drill with the quality playing of sizzling arrangements, creates excitement at every performance.

“Ohio’s Pride” performs annually for all home football games and one away game each season within the MAC conference. They have also been the featured entertainment for the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day Game, and the Cincinnati Bengals professional football organizations. “Ohio’s Pride” frequently performs for band shows, festivals, parades, and competitions throughout Ohio. Wherever they travel, the Marching Band is the goodwill ambassador for the university community, both through the excellence in performance, and for the character and pride demonstrated by all members of “Ohio’s Pride”The University of Akron Marching Band.