Legendary marching band director Bob Buckner ’67 has never been one to toot his own horn, opting instead to let the music produced by his Pride of the Mountains Marching Band do the talking. But Buckner’s friends and colleagues were not about to let him go quietly into retirement without fanfare, creating a new endowment fund in his honor that will benefit the marching band program for years to come.
The Bob Buckner Endowment will be used to provide the Pride of the Mountains with much-needed support for scholarship assistance for student musicians and additional programmatic needs, Chancellor David O. Belcher said. “This fund will help our marching band in unprecedented ways to recruit top talent from across the nation,” Belcher said. “We see this as a salute to the legend – Bob Buckner, who built Western Carolina’s marching band program into one of the best in the nation – and as a way to continue his tradition of excellence into the future.”
Buckner became director of WCU’s marching band program in 1991, helping grow membership in the program from fewer than 90 to nearly 400. During his tenure, the band received the 2009 John Philip Sousa Foundation’s prestigious Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest award for college and university marching bands. Capping his career was a 2011 New Year’s Day appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade by the Pride of the Mountains, which was named “best band” in the parade in a poll conducted by KTLA-TV of Los Angeles.
Buckner retired last summer after 20 years as director, although he has remained active with the program assisting his successor, David Starnes, with the transition and continuing as a mentor. Under Starnes, who came to WCU from the award-winning Kennesaw Mountain High School marching band in Georgia, the Pride of the Mountains continues to rack up accolades, scoring a rare invitation to perform during halftime of the NFL Charlotte Panthers home-opener against the Green Bay Packers in September.
“People ask, ‘What are you going to change about the band?’ There is nothing to change about the band,” Starnes said. “My charge and my goal now is to take it from the high level where Bob left it and move it to what, under 20 more years of his vision, it would eventually become. This fund in Bob’s honor will help us do that.”
Senior drum major Amy Shuford, who is attending WCU with scholarship support, called the endowment a fitting legacy. “Marching in the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band is an opportunity that should not be denied to anyone because of a lack of finances. Bob Buckner is the reason I am attending college. Thanks to this fund, he can continue to influence young adults to attend college in pursuit of a successful future,” Shuford said. “Bob Buckner has been an inspiration to thousands of music students throughout his career and, although he is now retired, his teachings will continue to inspire thanks to the Bob Buckner Endowment Fund.”