UNC Charlotte receives $2 million gift to support new marching band

First was football, and starting in fall 2015 the UNC Charlotte Marching Band will take the field. UNC Charlotte alumni Vickie and Gene Johnson have been the driving force behind the band, and they are donating $2 million to support the endeavor.

“The future well-being of our region is largely dependent on education, and anything we can do to enhance the work of UNC Charlotte is an investment in our future. Ultimately, success lies in the robust health of our educational systems. Education is a multi-faceted endeavor and an investment in the arts is as vital as any other area of study,” stated Gene Johnson. “We have seen, first-hand, the impact that the drum line has had on both students and alumni, and we are very excited to help expand this tradition. It is our hope the marching band will be a source of pride and excitement for all supporters of the 49ers. Vickie and I love UNC Charlotte, and it’s a privilege to be able to invest in its young people.”

Vickie and Gene Johnson, members of the classes of 1971 and 1973, have been generous and involved in the growth and progress of UNC Charlotte. Vickie Johnson has two degrees from UNC Charlotte and served on the Alumni Board of Directors. Gene Johnson served as president of the Alumni Board and on the Board of Trustees for eight years and was the first alumnus to chair the Trustees. In May 2014, he became the first alumnus to be awarded an honorary degree from UNC Charlotte.

rendering of the Johnson Band CenterThe gift was announced at the site of the future Vickie and Gene Johnson Marching Band Center, which will be located between Storrs Hall and the Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts. Earlier this year, the University selected the architectural firm Watson, Tate, Savory to design the new 6,700-square-foot facility that will house the band’s musical instruments, uniforms and several offices. The Vickie and Gene Johnson Marching Band Center will be within walking distance of the field next to University City Boulevard (N.C. Highway 49), where the marching band will practice.

A portion of the Johnson’s gift will establish the Vickie and Gene Johnson Marching Band Scholarship Fund. Proceeds from a planned $4.5 million permanent endowment also will provide funding for scholarships to active members of the UNC Charlotte Marching Band. Another portion is designated to assist with the construction of the Johnson Marching Band Center.

Initially, the band will include 150 students and could grow to as many as 350 students. It will include students from across the University with perhaps 20 percent who are music majors to represent a full cross-section of the undergraduate student population. Jeffrey Miller joined UNC Charlotte in August 2014 as the inaugural associate director of bands/director of athletics bands. He will direct the 49er Basketball Band, conduct the Symphonic Band and the new marching band.

Ken Lambla, dean of the College of Arts + Architecture, noted, “This gift from Vickie and Gene Johnson is critical to building the marching band program at UNC Charlotte. Recruiting talented music students is as essential to team success as recruiting outstanding athletes, and with this gift, the Johnsons provide the foundation for a broader fundraising campaign to make the marching band a premiere part of our University’s spirit and culture.”

UNC Charlotte held a public campaign to solicit suggestions for the band’s name and received more than 300 submissions. “We were overwhelmed with the enthusiastic response to our naming campaign,” commented interim chair of the Department of Music Jay Grymes. “Because of the large number of excellent suggestions, which keep coming in, we have decided to take extra time to name the UNC Charlotte marching band.”