Pride of the Mountains band director to retire after 19 years

If you once thought the famous WCU marching band director Bob Buckner would never retire, think again.

After the recent booming success the Pride of the Mountains marching band has experienced, first the receiving of the Sudler Trophy then the invitation to march in the 2011 Tournament of Roses parade, the last thing WCU expected was the retirement of the man behind the scenes making it all possible. But after careful consideration, Mr. Buckner and his wife Donna Buckner have decided that now is the perfect time to leave the Pride of the Mountains scene. They will officially step down in June 2011.

“I’ve been thinking about retiring for a year, and I decided this was a good time to do it,” said Buckner. “The band program is in good shape and I wanted to leave at a time when I knew the band could be maintained.”

Buckner admits to making this mutual decision with his wife Donna, who has also worked as coordinator of the Pride of the Mountains auxiliary for many years. Buckner still plans to be around WCU from time to time, “to work when he wants to work,” as he put it.

Buckner never expected that the band would become so successful, but at the same time understands why it has come so far.

“The Chancellor originally had a vision for how he thought we could be,” said Buckner,  “and we have made that happen for a lot of reasons, like our Alumni band, our show planning, and our systems of recruiting.”

Buckner recalls a time as band director when he thought he would never reach 200 members. Today, the Pride of the Mountains is pushing to double that number with around 390 members, all of which will be attending the 2011 Tournament of Roses parade this December.

When leaving such an enormous band, both enormous in stature and size, the question on everyone’s mind is what’s going to happen to the band when Bob leaves?

According to Buckner and his Assistant Director Matt Henley, there is no need to worry.

“I don’t believe recruiting numbers will fall,” said Buckner. “We are going to have another leader come in here and adjust to the staff that is already here. I think most successful teachers will understand the way we do things. I don’t see a huge change.”

“I think we’re just scratching the surface to how good we can be,” said Henley. “Not only are we extremely committed to keeping the legacy alive, but we are excited about getting better.”

A job description for Buckner’s position has been written and posted nationally. The Pride of the Mountains is reaching out to high school band directors who may be interested in the position. Search committees will also be formed and will include a mixture of people outside the realm of music. The Pride of the Mountains staff is expecting to complete the search as soon as possible in order to start working on the 2011 season.

When asked what was most memorable about his reign as director, Buckner’s answer was the obvious honor of receiving the Sudler trophy, which is considered the “Heisman Trophy” for marching bands. More specifically, Buckner described why receiving the trophy was so significant.

“I think the greatest accomplishment has been receiving the Sudler trophy in combination with being accepted to the 2011 Tournament of Roses parade,” said Buckner. “That put us in a whole new category.”

“The same day we were presented the trophy, we revealed the Tournament of Roses parade. To see the reaction from all of our fans was pretty overwhelming to me,” said Buckner.

After 19 eventful years at WCU, Buckner feels confident that now is the best time to leave. He expects the band to maintain a national stature, and has high expectations of the current staff to carry on his work. Of course, Henley and the rest of the Pride of the Mountains staff expect Buckner to be around to help the band from time to time.

“We are committed to making sure that Bob remains an active force in the Pride of the Mountains,” said Henley.

Even if Buckner doesn’t remain involved with the band forever, his name and reputation will always be imprinted on the Pride of the Mountains legacy and his dedication and his years spent will always be the core foundation to the success (and future success) of the band.

Ultimately. Buckner will continue to write some drill for shows, but he is also looking forward to spending more time with his six grandchildren and also hopes to become more involved in his community.