By Angela Oliver
Monday, May 7, 2012
College bands are known to rally crowds. The music, Paula Dehn said, creates the spirit of the campus. And though Kentucky Wesleyan College's spirit hasn't faltered, she said, it was time for a change.
"It's a program that's been limping along for a while now," said Dehn, vice president of academic affairs. "We wanted to revitalize it."
To do so, KWC hired Steven Pederson.
Formerly the band and orchestra director at Centre College, and earlier the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Pederson has a track record for revamping college band programs. Under his direction, he said, the Centre band grew from 15 to 80 players, and the ULM band grew from 60 to 240 players. He is aiming for similar results at KWC.
"Our goal is not just to build a band, but to keep it thriving, and we can't do that without numbers," Pederson said. "It's the right school and the right time to take this program where I know it can go."
Though he won't start until the fall semester, Pederson was officially hired in March. Since then, he's been between Lexington, where his family is preparing for the move, and the campus, meeting students individually over coffee.
"I've enjoyed talking to students and especially the support from the administration," he said. "The vision for the band program is a combination of the president's, the dean's and mine. With them behind us, we can begin to make the band something that KWC is known for."
With the recent resurgence of the vocal performance program at KWC, Pederson said he is looking forward to sharing the energy and working with the choir for performances. He said the program will likely start with a pep band for sports and other functions and a jazz band for collaborations. Both, he said, can be successful with the number of players KWC currently has.
"We'll start small, but the only way to thrive is to conduct the program in a complete way," he said. "We can't just have a pep band or just a jazz band, we have to build, and there are five factors to help with that."
Those factors are: a commitment from the administration; a structure that allows all students to be involved regardless of their field of study; growing the program from within by being visible on campus; building relationships off campus; and servicing and recruiting in local schools.
"For a small liberal arts college, we can easily recruit out of state," he said. "But I'd like to start locally and branch out. I'd love to have 20 or 25 area schools in our network."
Pederson said he hopes to appeal to students by emphasizing the benefits of the band.
"It's a multifaceted organization," he said. "It's academic, it's social, it develops leadership skills, and the players will experience a lot."
Dehn, who played in the band during her college days, said she is excited to see where the band program goes with Pederson's direction.
"He has the ability to interact with students in a way that makes them interested," she said. "And whether they play as a hobby or want to continue from high school, we need to offer a band that allows them to do that. We know he has the knowledge to bring those students to campus and revive its spirit."