Sylvester Young, a former music professor at Ohio University, has been selected as FAMU's new marching band director.
Officials at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee announced early last month that they were interviewing two people for the job of overseeing the school's troubled marching band. The ensemble has been suspended indefinitely since the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in Orlando in late 2011.
It's still not clear when the band — which had become a symbol of Florida's only public, historically black university — will be able to perform again. Young, however, is scheduled to start work June 14 with an annual salary of $105,000.
This afternoon, Young said that one of his main focuses will be changing the culture of hazing within the band. Champion's beating death after the Florida Classic football game in Orlando and the intense media scrutiny that followed forced FAMU to initiate widespread changes.
On Monday the university announced the hiring of a "compliance" officer for its music department — one of several new positions created in an effort to control hazing and mismanagement within the band.
"Other schools are watching us very closely," Young said during a news conference held at noon to announce his hiring. "We can actually come out of this being an icon for all other universities."
FAMU had interviewed Young and Don P. Roberts, the instrumental-music coordinator for the DeKalb County School District, for the post.
Young and Roberts are graduates of FAMU. Young, who played in the FAMU band as a student, received a bachelor's degree in music education from FAMU in 1969.
He has a doctorate degree in music education from the University of Missouri-Columbia, according to his resume.
From 1990 to 2011, he was an associate professor of music at Ohio University. He directed the school's marching band — the Marching 110 — from 1990 to 1996, according to the Ohio University marching band's website.
Young said he was preparing for retirement when colleagues around the country began urging him to apply for the band-director position at FAMU.
FAMU had come close to selecting a new band director in January. It reopened its search, though, after failing to negotiate a contract with Jorim Reid, director of bands for North Carolina Central University.
FAMU's interim president, Larry Robinson, told the Sentinel recently that officials "are still assessing the right conditions needed to lift the suspension of the Marching 100."
Today, he indicated during the news conference that, with the selection of a new band director, he is a step closer to reaching a decision.
Robinson called Young a "talented and experienced administrator, musician and scholar who I believe will provide strong discipline, leadership and vision for the Marching '100.'"
"Dr. Young has had a stellar career as director of bands at several universities and I am looking forward to Young continuing the great traditions of the Marching "100" when we deem it ready to return to the field," he said in a prepared statement.
FAMU officials now need to discuss, in consultation with Young, who will be eligible to play with the band and which types of events the band will participate in initially. Robinson also indicated that the band could be smaller than in previous years.
Young also cautioned that "we just can't put them back on the field," even if they are ready performance-wise.
"We've got to change the culture of the band," Young said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun