The University Record, September 7, 1999

Michigan native Tapia returns to direct Marching Band

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

A Michigan native who has been gone from the state for nearly 20 years has returned to direct the Marching Band. James Tapia will serve as the associate director of bands, the Donald R. Shepherd Assistant Professor of Conducting and director of the Michigan Marching Band.

A man of varied musical talents and interests, Tapia moved from singing in a church choir to mastering the French horn and trumpet. Yet he isn’t beyond popping a CD by eclectic pop performer Paula Cole into his car’s sound system. Tapia might follow Cole’s CD with one from the classical orchestral or wind literature.

James Tapia and Matthew O. Smith give instruction and tips to U-M Marching Band members (top photo) during a recent rehearsal before their 1999 premiere performance at Michigan Stadium Sept. 4. Tapia taught in Pennsylvania, Kansas and Texas before moving to Michigan. Smith, who earned a master’s degree in music education from the U-M in 1999, served the past two years as graduate assistant with the bands. Photos by Bob Kalmbach
Tapia’s goal this season is to continue the musical excellence and precision performances of the Marching Band through training at Band Camp and daily rehearsals at Elbel Field. “I want to hone the integrity of the band every day to make it better than it was yesterday,” Tapia says, noting that if the Michigan Marching Band is not the premiere band in the country he would be “hard pressed to find one better in musicianship, drillwork, musicology and physical exertion.” Tapia credits this reputation to the H. Robert Reynolds’ 25-year leadership as director of bands.

Known for its excellence throughout the world, the Marching Band recently was featured in a Japanese video magazine. The Marching Band garners pride within and outside the University and across the country, demonstrated in the funding of a permanent tower of steel and concrete to be erected after this season at Elbel Field. The new tower, for overseeing the practice sessions, will replace the temporary scaffolding erected each year.

The new tower will give the directors unobstructed sightlines of the band during rehearsals.

Tapia previously served as director of bands and professor of music at Pittsburgh State University in Kansas, where he also conducted various ensembles and athletic bands. Also while in Kansas, Tapia was professor of trumpet and taught conducting and music education classes at the graduate and undergraduate levels. He served as an assistant instructor at the University of Texas at Austin in 1996-97, working with the Wind Ensemble, the Symphony Band, the Concert Band and the Longhorn Marching Band.

Tapia maintains an active schedule as guest conductor, performer, clinician and lecturer, appearing throughout the United States, as well as in France, England, Holland and Korea. Assisting Tapia will be Matthew O. Smith who, along with his Marching Band duties, will be an adjunct lecturer in music (conducting). Smith holds a master of music in music education degree from U-M (1999), and was a graduate assistant with the Michigan bands in 1997–98.

Visitors are welcome at the Elbel Field rehearsals held 4:45–6:15 p.m. weekdays.