University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations
July 17, 2008
Contact: Joy Washington, USA Public Relations, (251) 460-6211
USA Officially Begins New Marching Band Program with
Announcement of First Band Director
Now Recruiting and Awarding Marching Band Scholarships
USA Band Director
USA's first marching band director, Ward Miller, announces that he's now recruiting band members and awarding scholarships at a July 17 press conference to kick off the official beginning of the new marching band program. Dr. Greg Gruner, chair of the department of music and director of bands at USA, left, introduced Ward to an audience of University students, faculty and staff.

The University of South Alabama today announced the official creation of the USA Marching Band with the hiring of the first marching band director who, in turn, is now seeking band members and awarding scholarships.

The marching band is being developed in concert with USA’s new NCAA-sanctioned football program and will perform at all games starting with the University’s inaugural football game in fall 2009. 

The football and marching band programs were created last December after the Student Government Association and the student newspaper, The Vanguard, along with other student groups, worked to gather more than 2,300 student signatures on a petition to endorse a football team.

The new football and marching band programs are expected to enhance campus life at USA, improve student and faculty/staff recruitment efforts, stimulate alumni and philanthropic support, and create closer bonds with the community.

“This is truly a momentous occasion,” said Dr. Greg Gruner, chair of the department of music and director of bands at USA.  “For the first time in the history of the University of South Alabama, we are developing and showcasing a marching band program.

“Student musicians at the University and future students will benefit from the outstanding ensemble experience and from the opportunity to perform for our dedicated students, staff, faculty, alumni and community in the Gulf Coast region,” Gruner explained.

Auburn, Ala., native Ward Miller was appointed first marching band director at USA.  He joins USA from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he served as an instructor and director of the wind ensemble for the Southeast Iowa Concert Band.

“I’m honored to be a part of this historic moment,” said Miller, who has also been named associate director of bands at the University. “This is a unique opportunity.”

Miller, who will also teach marching band techniques for music education majors and oversee the basketball pep band, began his official duties at the University on July 15.  He will immediately begin marching band recruitment, providing opportunities for both current USA students and high school seniors.

Miller said he will be looking for students who are academically focused and eager to be involved in a marching band.   

“Students don’t have to be music majors or minors to be in the USA Marching Band,” he said. “This process will be open to the entire USA student body.”

In the coming weeks, Miller will travel to band camps locally and across the state and region.  He said he wants the largest quantity of students while maintaining quality.

“We are looking for students who are committed and have a great work ethic,” Miller explained

According to the new band director, some students will showcase their talents while he’s visiting their high schools, and others will audition on USA’s campus.

“We don’t want students to be intimidated by the word ‘audition,’” Miller said. “We want them to dress casual, bring their instrument and play. The audition process will be less formal than what most students would expect.”

The University will offer eligible students marching band scholarships, according to Miller.

“We have scholarships that are competitive with any school in this region,” he said.  “The University administration and Dr. Gruner researched it carefully. We want to build all of the music programs at USA, and the marching band is an added bonus.”

The USA Marching Band will be one of the most identifiable parts of the University, the new director noted.

“We will be marching in parades and exhibitions,” he said. “We will include a great deal of pageantry while creating quality music. We want to extend the University’s message and brand on the field and wherever we perform, displaying our music and drill.  We want students to join us, get in on this historic moment, and make their academic and musical dreams a reality at USA.”

Miller completed his doctoral coursework in band conducting at the University of Iowa and is completing his dissertation. He received his master’s degree in music from Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., and his bachelor’s degree in music education from Auburn University.

In addition to his work at Iowa Wesleyan College, Miller served as assistant wind ensemble director at Mesa Community College and director of bands at Pleasant Grove and Andalusia high schools.

He was a musical arranger and assistant music director for the Macy’s Great American Marching Band during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, N.Y., Webmaster for Auburn University’s band department, brass clinician for the Phoenix Symphony Guild, a clinician to multiple high school marching and concert bands, and a marching band arranger for high schools in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Miller has been published in numerous professional journals. He is a member of the College Band Directors National Association, the National Band Association, the International Trombone Association, Music Educators National Conference, Golden Key National Honorary Society, and Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society.

For more information on USA Marching Band scholarships and auditions, contact the department of music at (251) 460-6136 or visit their Web site at

The University of South Alabama

Since its founding in 1963, the University of South Alabama has been one of Alabama’s fastest growing universities, currently enrolling more than 14,000 students in a wide range of academic programs in Allied Health Professions, Arts and Sciences, Mitchell College of Business, Computer and Information Sciences, Continuing Education and Special Programs, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The University has awarded 62,000 degrees.

In addition to teaching and research, USA is one of the largest health care providers in the Mobile region, with its faculty physicians and two hospitals – Children’s & Women’s and USA Medical Center – involved in more than a quarter million patient encounters annually.
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