Strike up the band: UTSA hires marching band director

Ron Ellis

Ron Ellis

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(May 19, 2010)--Officials at The University of Texas at San Antonio said plans are in place to build a university marching band and announced the hiring of Ron Ellis as the inaugural director of the athletics band and assistant director of bands. The university's goal is to field a 150-member marching band and color guard in September 2011 when UTSA football begins. Over time the band will expand to 350 members.

Ellis joins UTSA from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where as a band director, drill designer and instructor since 1990, he led the 308-member UCF Marching Knights. Ellis will assume his new role in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts Department of Music on Aug. 1.

"It has been a very exciting process to start Division I Football at UTSA and now it is even more exciting because this start-up athletic program also will add opportunities for other students to be involved in a new tradition," said Lynn Hickey, UTSA athletic director.

In addition to the marching band, Ellis will lead the UTSA pep band and off-season will teach music and conducting.

David Frego, chair of the Department of Music, said Ellis was selected because of his experience, skills and enthusiasm for building a new marching band program.

"UCF has been UTSA's benchmark when it comes to building a football program from the ground up," said Frego. "To take that one step further, now UTSA has a band director who helped build the UCF marching unit from the ground up. We are thrilled with this hire."

"This is a huge undertaking and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that's going to take a team effort from day one -- all the way until this ensemble marches out of the tunnel next season," said Ellis. "Texas is second to none when it comes to tradition, pride and instrumental music and I am truly honored to be selected for this position."

Ellis will begin recruiting students for the marching band as early as fall 2010. Students will enroll in a new one-hour elective class that will be offered in fall 2011.

"More than likely, the musicians in the marching band will come from every college, creating a strong unifying force for the whole university," said Frego.

To achieve this goal, UTSA officials emphasized the need for private support. "All of these programs will take time to build -- both in numbers and in financial resources -- so we are planning to add to these activities one step at a time," said Hickey.

Frego said he expects fundraising will be a big part of his role in the coming months. "Before we take the field, we will need support to purchase uniforms and equipment, particularly the drum line," he said.

In spite of these challenges, UTSA knows Ellis is the right person at the right time. Over his career at UCF, Ellis's bands have performed at several high-profile events including the NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments and the 2007 Liberty Bowl.

Ellis also was band choreographer, conductor or adviser for the ABC television series "Coach," the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon," Epcot Center's 20th Anniversary Celebration, the Universal Pictures feature film "Sydney White" and the "Disney's Very Merry Christmas Parade" ABC television special.

Ellis will continue to serve as a music director at Walt Disney Attractions Entertainment in Orlando. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in music performance from UCF and a master of music degree in wind and orchestral conducting from the University of South Florida in Tampa.