NCCU Alumni Green Helps Sound Machine

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Joined: February 13th, 2002, 4:11 am

February 16th, 2002, 8:58 am #1

Alumni Green Helps Sound Machine:
web.nccu.edu/campus/smachine
Fund-raisers hope to see a return to the financially strapped NCCU marching band's glory days.

By Cortney Summers
Echo Staff Writer
web.nccu.edu/campus/echo/...sound.html
The NCCU Sound Machine - seen here in a file photo from 1999 - must get by on an annual budget of $13,000.
According to 1972 graduate John Kinsey, the N.C. Central University Sound Machine used to be "the bomb."
"It was one of the number one bands in the Southeast," he said.
But the Sound Machine, the once proud maroon and gray, has fallen on hard times in recent years. And now NCCU's alumni are stepping in to do what they can to rescue the band.
"You have to have adequate financial resources in order to do what you have to do," said NCCU band director Robyn Reaves.
Reaves has been band director for 4 years. She says that there have been financial problems from the very beginning.
The budget for all band operations the Sound Machine, the concert band, the pep band, and the marching band is a slender $13,000 per year.
This sum must also support the band camp and Spring Band Blast, the annual workshop that attracts students from around the state.
"By the time we go to a game and pay for all of the students meals and travel expenses, we are almost half way to spending all of what is in the budget," said Reaves.
Bands at other universities fare better. N.C A&T, for example, gets $80,000 for their marching band alone, according to Reaves, who has researched other university band budgets.
"Where is the equity? We have to beg for money because we are in debt," said Reaves, who stressed that the financial situation not only affects the band's ability to purchase instruments and uniforms, but also affects their ability to recruit students and staff.
"We are vulnerable to the public eye," said Reaves. "Students look at different colleges to see whose band they want to play with."
"Within this inadequate budget, we have not done any recruitment which involves mailing students to encourage them to be a part of NCCU band department, or any repairs on any instruments," said Reaves.
It's a situation that alumni John Kinsey, Sylvia Casey, Dennis Ellis, Allen Fitzgerald and Maple Stevens, have found intolerable. So they stepped in to do everything they can to help the band.
Kinsey and Casey are heading up efforts at the Charlotte Alumni Association.
Ellis and Fitzgerald are working on the issue within the Durham Alumni Association.
And Maple Stevens, president of the Winston-Salem Chapter, is working from that end of the state.
Their efforts have just begun. Their focus is currently on helping the band get much-needed instruments. So far the group has managed to purchase trombones, mellophones, French horns and marching baritones.
According to Reaves, Kinsey and the other alumni "have taken the baton and run with it." Alumni presented the instruments donated by the Charlotte Chapter to the band at Homecoming 2000.
Alumni fund-raisers have big plans for the future. They hope to help with more than instruments, and plan to move on to uniforms, scholarships, and more.
Kinsey's dream is for a partnership with the university that will lead to a 200-piece band.
"I can't wait to see the 200 piece band with new uniforms, instruments," said Kinsey. "I want a reserved seat. As soon as they print the season tickets I want to be in the house when this all happens."
"There are certain roles that each role must play and we, as alumni, see our role as being the booster club," says Kinsey.
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February 16th, 2002, 9:09 am #2

Originally Printed in Raleigh's News & Observer - Wednesday, September 22, 1999
New Maestro, New Tune
web.nccu.edu/campus/smachine
By JUMOKE R. GAMBLE, News & Observer Staff Writer

Since its inception in the early 1900s, N.C. Central University's "Sound Machine" marching band has been more than just entertainment for spectators at football games. The band's stylized dance moves and its drums and blaring horns create a unity between the school's athletic teams and student body.

Robyn Reaves, NCCU's band director since 1997, has been responsible to keeping that tradition alive.

It hasn't been easy being one of the youngest band directors and the only woman holding such a position in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association -- in fact the only one in the annals of historically black colleges and universities. She was hired by NCCU two days before band camp in 1997 and has experienced success and stress during her brief tenure.

"The roles of women in the early '20s and '30s didn't allow them to become band directors," said Reaves, who replaced Xavier Cason. Cason still teaches music at NCCU.

"Female teachers couldn't even be out past certain times. Now that we have more females in college, the band has changed."

Reaves said she also needed time to understand the intricacies of administration, how the campus functions and her own status as a well-known campus figure. And band members needed time to adjust to her, too.

"When learning personalities, you have to tread lightly at first and deal with a lot of people," Reaves said. "I'm a no-nonsense type of person."

As a percussionist at Winston-Salem State University and NCCU, Reaves knew she wanted to be a band director. Growing up in the Northeast section of Washington, D.C., helped her build a tough exterior and confidence. That toughness comes out in her practices five days a week.

"We practice hard, and I let them know everything that's worth having takes work," she said. "To me, their best effort is never good enough. There's always room to improve."

Band President Benita Parker, a senior clarinet player, is one the the women Reaves has influenced. She conducts fund-raisers and helps keep band members on point.

"I was hesitant in band at first," Parker said. "I never even thought we'd have a female director. But working closely with [Reaves] has made me unable to imagine my life without it."

Senior tuba player Brian Miller is considered a mentor in the 100-member band. He said it took a while for some to come to grips with Cason's departure.

"The transition between directors was hard and rocky," Miller said.

Eventually, however, Reaves prevailed.

Now that the novelty of being a female band director has passed, she's focusing on the pressing, nuts-and-bolts business of the job -- recruiting, fund raising and developing the most impressive band in the CIAA. She said the band needs new instruments, a bigger budget and more scholarship money.

"I was just getting my feet wet, but now I'm coming into my own," Reaves said. "The hoopla is over; now the work begins."

With NCCU Chancellor Julius Chambers' push to increase enrollment, the band becomes an invaluable recruiting tool. But Reaves insists that the $13,000 band budget isn't enough to maintain the expected level of excellence.

The expenses add up quickly, so trips are limited. Out-of-state travel costs $2,000 to $5,000.

Also, band members require new and repaired instruments and well-kept uniforms. The average cost of a sousaphone is $5,000, nearly half the budget.
"The kids only get two or three new instruments a year," Reaves said. "The last time they received a shipment was in the late '70s."

Over the years, particularly with historically black colleges, the marching band has grown into as much of an attraction as the football and basketball games at which it performs.

"One generalization for all HBCUs is that the band is important to the athletic teams," said Brenda Hampden, chairwoman of NCCU's music department. "They provide the entertainment for halftime shows, and people often come to the game because the band is performing."

Growing up in Charlotte, senior drum major Javanti Rogers played in school bands, hoping one day to join NCCU's. He compares his position to that of a commander leading his troops into war.

The music must be memorized, knees thrust high when marching, formations tight and dance steps done with flair.

"I have to guide them through the war," Rogers said. "And tell them what to do and how we can improve."
Durham native LuAnne Harris has worked in the admissions office for 14 years. She has witnessed the band's influence firsthand.

"The band creates a positive image for the school and makes people inquire about coming here," she said. "It should continue to grow and get support from the administration. And with Robyn here, it's a great recruiting tactic to be able to say, 'I played under the tutelage of the first female director.' "

For now, some saxophones are rusty. Some uniforms are tattered and faded. But when the band takes the football field each Saturday afternoon, the sound is rich and new.

"Right now, we're making do," Reaves said. "Some things we have to sacrifice, but the show must go on."
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December 19th, 2007, 4:29 pm #3

OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL UNIVERSITY
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA 27707
OCTOBER 2, 2002
CONTACT:
Sharon Saunders
Alonda Thomas
(919) 530-6295
NCCU ALUMNA DONATES OVER $225,000
www.nccu.edu/Events
DURHAM, N.C. North Carolina Central University alumna Evna L. Penn bequeathed $225,725.99 to her alma mater as part of her last will and testament.
Penn's gift will be used to establish the Evna L. Penn Fund in memory of James V. Penn and Flavella B. Penn. The endowed scholarship will provide educational loans or scholarships to worthy students who are in need of financial assistance to pursue post-secondary educational programs in the field of business and in the band division.
"We are very grateful that Ms. Penn kept North Carolina Central University in her heart and her giving," said Chancellor James H. Ammons.
"The scholarships generated from her gift will continue the legacy of learning and leadership at NCCU."
Penn, a native of Forsyth County, received a bachelor's and master's degree in commerce from NCCU and continued her studies at New York University.
She served as a business education teacher in the New York City School System for more than 35 years.
Upon retiring, she returned to her hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she was very active at First Baptist Church and as a volunteer in the community.
Penn never married nor had children. She died on September 8, 2001 at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
"The NCCU Sound Machine is deeply appreciative of Ms. Penn's gracious gift," said Jorim Reid, director of bands. "Music scholarships are critical in order to continue to recruit and maintain top musicians. Ms. Penn's gift will ensure that the Sound Machine can continue its recent growth in membership and quality of performance."
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May 23rd, 2010, 11:40 am #4

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