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Monday, April 24, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 139

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Dismissal of director Mayes raises questions

By Juliana Coutinho
Daily Cougar Staff

Robert Mayes is, according to students, a friendly, likable man who is an avid supporter of the University. He has directed marching bands for 30 years, 16 of them at UH, and many of his students say he has encouraged them to seek careers in music education and band directing.

But a few weeks ago, Mayes was officially dismissed from his post as director of the Cougar Marching Band -- and the reason remains unclear.

"Mayes is fun," said Jessica Calandra, a junior French horn player who has been in the marching band for three years. "He gets things done when he needs to; he is friendly and personable. We will miss him."

David White, director of the Moores School of Music, said a new director has not yet been appointed.

"The process is going on at this time to find a new director," said White, who did not specify why Mayes was removed from the position. "We want to resolve this as soon as possible."

The sudden change, and the lack of explanation, has left many members of the Cougar Marching Band wondering why they lost their director -- and naming the Athletics Department as a possible cause.

Some students claim the controversy started when the marching band's music interfered with music and advertisements being played on new loudspeakers installed at Robertson Stadium last year.

The students also said the Athletics Department sometimes asked the band to perform when they had classes, then complained about low turnout among members.

"Last year, the Athletics Department asked us to play for an event the day before the event," said David Neumann, a junior business major and tenor saxophone player. "They did that a couple of times. It's not fair for the band."

The belief athletics played a direct role in Mayes' reassignment was the subject of a letter to The Daily Cougar earlier this month from Frank Chambers, a sophomore music education major.

"I am assuming that the next step will be for the students in the music school to have to run laps any time they make a playing error and that the Wind Ensemble, which has gone through a Grammy nomination process, will be introduced with smoke and a siren," he wrote.

But Athletics Director Chet Gladchuk said his department had no part in the decision.

"There have been complaints about everything from student attendance to the marching band and parking," Gladchuk said. "I have been listening to the complaints, but that doesn't mean I have a role in deciding what should be changed."

David Tomatz, who was director of the music school from 1984 until last summer, said he didn't know why Mayes was taken out of the position.

"I never received any complaints against the marching band," Tomatz said. "The marching band is a difficult organization to run. Mayes has done a wonderful job. He has had a fine marching band and a wonderful basketball band too."

White also declined to say whose decision it was to remove Mayes from the directorship. He said the school would welcome input from the Athletics Department and the alumni organization in selecting a new director.

"I'd like to have seen a larger band, a band that became more involved in the spirit," Gladchuk said. "I would like the marching band to be highly successful, and the football team too.

"Leadership plays a direct role on success," he said.

Mayes, an assistant music professor, preferred not to comment on the issue, but students said they were upset by the change.

"(Mayes) takes care of us and makes all of us energetic at the football games," said Renee Bechtel, a junior marketing major and percussionist who has been in the band for three years. "I'll probably not go back to marching band now that he is gone."

Neumann agreed, saying, "I don't think dismissing Mayes is one of the smartest things UH has done." "UH is probably losing the biggest fan it has."
 

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