This fall, the university music department hired Interim Associate Director of Bands and Interim Director of Athletic Bands, Dr. Dennis Hawkins. This change comes after the departure of former marching band director, Dr. William J. Plenk, who accepted the position of director of athletic bands at the University of Memphis.
Dr. Hawkins hails from the University of Minnesota, where he recently earned his doctorate of Musical Arts in Wind Conducting.
In his office on the second floor of the Virginia Street Gym, it is easy to take notice of the vintage photos framed on the wall — a portrait from 1896 portraying the first version of Reno’s marching band and a comeback photo of the band in 1980 after an 11-year hiatus.
“I keep these things on the wall facing me every day all day just to remember it’s bigger than all of us,” said Dr. Hawkins.
Hawkins pursued an interest in music as early as fifth grade.
“I remember being in the fifth-grade band and I got yelled at because I would write in the fingerings. My director came behind me and erased all my fingerings,” Dr. Hawkins said. “But I don’t think it was until seventh and eighth grade I really started to make connections and things started to happen.”
Hawkins is originally from Northeast Ohio and studied music at Youngstown State University, Boston University and the University of Minnesota. Throughout his educational career, Dr. Hawkins has created a teaching style that he deems as collaborative.
“I like creating opportunities for students to reach their full potential and for them to realize they are capable of things they may have not even considered,” Dr. Hawkins said.
At the University of Minnesota, Dr. Hawkins assisted a marching band of over 300 students. Although the Wolf Pack Marching Band is smaller, Dr. Hawkins does not find the group size to affect his teaching style.
“Music is music. We have the same 12 notes. The students here are just every bit energetic as they are in Minnesota and just as talented,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Reno is really lucky to have the Wolf Pack Marching Band.”
A change in band directors can be challenging for students, but alto saxophone player Patricia Garcia believes that the band has easily adapted to the process.
“It has definitely been a huge transition for us and we struggled a little, but halfway through band camp we found our way back and a routine that we are used to,” said Garcia.”I feel that we are more confident in what we do on the field and our playing ability.”
If you have ever walked past the intramural fields or attended a sporting event, chances are you’ve heard the energetic group that is the Wolf Pack Marching Band. From their melodic pep tunes to their intricate field shows, Dr. Hawkins takes pride in leading the Pride of the Sierra.
“Serving in this capacity is such an honor. The band has achieved so much in recent history. To think that six years ago they were talking about not having a marching band blows my mind,” Dr. Hawkins said. “The group performs at such a high level and it has integrated itself into the community to be such an establishment that I can’t think that the band wouldn’t exist.”
Karolina Rivas can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.