Absence of band director shakes POTM

Western Carolina’s very own Pride of the Mountains marching band was thrown for a loop when the long-time band director, David Starnes, officially resigned on August seventh. Since then the effects of his absence are becoming more and more evident as the practices roll on.  

Students and staff alike were shocked at the news of Starnes resignation when it came from out of the blue and written in a long Facebook post to the Pride of the Mountains Members Only page. He described the incidents preceding his resignation.

 ” On Monday, August 3, I was made aware of a position in a metro Atlanta school district where I spent 20 years of my life teaching middle school and high school prior to moving to WCU.” Starnes goes on to say that after an application and interview process, he was offered the job on August six and promptly accepted it. “I saw this opportunity as a logical ‘line in the sand’ to make a change in my professional life.”  

Though he left in what he considered the most logical time possible, considering the official semester had only just began, it still left students and faculty in shock by the sudden eruption of change. To Katie Hefner a 23-year-old Western Carolina University “super senior” and color guard captain, things have already changed so much in the time that Mr. Starnes has been gone.

“I’ve worked with David a lot actually,” she mentions, in an interview I held with her. “I’ve been in leadership for three years and we always worked closely with him. David was very point blank and he had a clear schedule that he would try to stick to no matter what.” In a time of COVID-19 where plans change by the minute, this clear schedule just isn’t a reality anymore. “From this season so far, it seems like there is a little more flexibility.”  

In the search for new leadership Jon Henson and Matt Henley took over the role of Director and immediately began the long process of rebuilding the band for the 2020 season.

“This season after Jon took over has involved a lot more communication,” Hefner said. “He is able to come see us during our rehearsals; the color guard meets with him weekly and the communication is super fast and efficient.”  

Caroline Hufnagle, a sophomore student at Western and color guard captain, talked about the changes being made in the band. For her marching with the band at WCU was a dream come true and something she has wanted since her freshman year at high school. 

“David leaving was a shock to literally everyone … it meant POTM would be going through a lot of changes this season. Now Jon Henson and Matt Henley (both POTM alumni) are running things and they’re doing an excellent job on making sure each sections needs are being met as well as being safe during this pandemic,” she said.

These changes being made are evident before you even step onto the field to look on during one of their practices. Each and every band member is jovial while keeping social distance and all are wearing masks to protect their safety and the safety of others.

“Band is quite literally a social musical activity,” Hufnagle continues, “and the fact they found ways in making that safe enough for us to do what we have been wanting to do since last season is pretty fantastic.”  

The beloved Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is going through a process of rebirth and is planning on making a powerful comeback all in one piece as soon as it is safe enough to do so. Performance and diligent training mean everything to the band and as Jon Henson himself likes to say, “we will keep that long purple line going!” and inspire many more people as the season continues on.