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Band leader’s recruitment efforts a resounding success

Don Hower, director of the Cougar Marching Band, has a lot to be proud of. Not only has he brought band participation up from 65 students in 1991 to today’s 240, but he does his job with the help of just three people — compared to some Pac-10 schools with staffs of 20 or more in their marching band.

“Don Hower has a great understanding of what a nationally visible band and athletics department needs to be,” said Erich Lear, interim dean for the College of Liberal Arts. “He is enormously valuable — he knows how to recruit students!”

Initially, Hower found that WSU was not recruiting students to the marching band. With Lear’s help, Hower developed a recruiting plan that includes pairing up current students with prospective students, conducting phone calls to potential students and preparing literature about the program.

The program showed success quickly and, by the 1997 Rose Bowl, band membership hit 195 students. One problem — funding for the program only supported 135 students.

“Luckily President Rawlins and members of the upper administration staff have given us a lot of support, both in acknowledgement and in funding to the program,” said Hower. With that support, the band continued to play on.

As the group grows, so do the demands placed upon Hower. “Think of the band as a big family,” he said. “With 240 different personalities, it can become slightly difficult at times.”

Hower, whose duties include designing drills, choosing songs, orchestrating rehearsals and planning trips, has the help of two graduate assistants and a stadium announcer. “Scott (Carson) and Tony (Sodano) are great, they fit in very well and they are very helpful; but they are students, so the amount of time that I can demand out of them is limited,” said Hower. “I delegate a lot of responsibilities to the section leaders … I couldn’t do it without them.”

Hower’s job may not be easy, but it has its rewards. “I think I have the best job in the world … I love college athletics … being around 18- to 22-year-olds keeps me young!” he said.

“When I first came to WSU, no one asked us to come and play for them. Now we have to turn down invites,” said Hower. “It feels good to know that you are a success to someone else’s event.”

“Our band sounds wonderful,” said Lear. “At the 1998 Rose Bowl, Michigan’s marching band tried to intimidate us. They went before us and were giving catcalls to our band, but they got quiet really fast after we performed!”

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