June 24, 2008 — The Marching Highland Cavaliers at the University of Virginia's College at Wise will soon have new uniforms and instruments, thanks to a $1.28 million gift that also creates an endowment to provide annual operational support for the band.
U.Va.-Wise received the gift from the Hunter Smith Family Foundation, which was founded by Charlottesville resident Hunter Smith. Smith was named U.Va.-Wise's "Benefactor of the Year" in 2007 for her generosity toward the college.
"This generous endowment will provide permanent and perpetual support for the Marching Highland Cavaliers," U.Va.-Wise Chancellor David J. Prior said. "The endowment comes as the marching band program is seeing steady growth after two successful years."
Richard Galyean, director of bands at U.Va.-Wise, said the funding boost enables the Marching Highland Cavaliers to grow from their initial 30 members in 2006 to 100 by 2012. Galyean expects 50 band members to take to the performance field this fall.
"This is the most exciting thing that has happened to me in my 25 years of teaching," Galyean said. "The ability to purchase what we need is a band director's dream. It's breathtaking."
Galyean has ordered new uniforms, silver instruments and enough drums to have a striking drumline. The uniforms could be ready in October and the instruments are trickling in now.
Dan Boothe, a sought-after judge for nationwide band competitions, has been tapped to teach percussion and music appreciation, Galyean said. Michael Cox continues to serve as visual coordinator. Galyean said Cox does a tremendous job with the band's color guard and writing the drill.
The Smith gift also includes funds to start a booster club for the marching band. Galyean said establishing a booster organization will offer even more support for the band members and the program in general.
"Mrs. Smith's gift allows us to go one step further," Galyean said. "We can have the absolute best of everything. It's my goal to make sure we are second to none. The band is already a class act, but this just adds to it."
Galyean said the band has made steady progress since receiving both enthusiastic support from and start-up funds authorized two years ago by Prior, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Gil Blackburn, provost and senior vice chancellor; and Gary Juhan, vice chancellor for administration. David Volk, an assistant professor of music, then encouraged Galyean to launch the band sooner than expected. Since then, U.Va.-Wise has added a music major to its curriculum, and the Marching Highland Cavaliers will travel to some away football games this fall.
"They have always had pride when they march out there, but now they can be really proud," Galyean said.
The band program has come a long way since Galyean pieced together basic instruments and drums from surplus equipment donated by the region's high school band directors. Galyean compares the first years of the marching band program to the genesis of U.Va.-Wise when it was founded as Clinch Valley College in 1954: Both were the result of the sheer determination of a handful of dedicated people.
"Starting a band from the ground floor is so typical of how our college started," Galyean said. "To be a part of this is just overwhelming."
For information about the Marching Highland Cavaliers Band, contact Richard Galyean, director of bands at 276-328-0235 or email@example.com, or the Office of College Relations at 276-328-0130.
About the University of Virginia's College at Wise
The only branch of the University of Virginia, U.Va.-Wise is ranked among the nation's top public liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. U.Va.-Wise offers undergraduate and professional programs in the liberal arts tradition of Thomas Jefferson.