Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


The Music Man:

Standing atop a 10-foot ladder, Chris Chapman waves his hands up and down to the music and counts out the beats into the microphone. He directs his 50 musicians with instruments held high, into complex formations as they march around the football practice field behind the Oxley Center.

It’s just another day at the office for Chapman, FAU’s new marching band director who is thrilled to be restarting the marching band.

“There is nowhere I’d rather be right now,” he says. “It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of something big like this.”

The university began its nation-wide search for a marching band director early last year. Heather Coltman, dean of the music department, and director of bands Kyle Prescott traveled to the Midwest Band and Orchestra Conference in Chicago to interview applicants. It was there in a little coffee shop that they first met Chapman.

“After the very first sentence out of his mouth we knew he was the one,” Coltman recalls.

Prescott says his first impression told him that this was the guy, but the selling point was that Chapman’s concept of the band fit his vision. “We both saw a big-time university marching band, not a high school band for older people.”

“When they told me they wanted variety and a traditional style marching band that could entertain an audience, I about jumped over the table and kissed them,” Chapman says. “It became the number one job in America for me.”

Three other applicants came to visit the school, besides Chapman. “They were all great, but we wanted Chapman,” Coltman says. “He just fit. We all knew it, even the students.”

They were looking for a great musician, someone with charisma who would appeal to press, staff and students, says Coltman. “Chapman was all this and more. It was clear he had passion. He was bright, fun and knew sports like the back of his hand.” She says the best thing about Chapman is that he is not just a band director, but an educator. Chapman is teaching three classes this semester and will add a fourth in the spring, she says.

“Director Chapman is passionate,” says trumpet player Jason Lindsey. “He has vision and goals; he really knows how to motivate us.”

“He brings so much life and energy into the mix,” says senior Wendy Setzer, a piccolo player. “Everyone loves him.”

Chapman, an Ohio native, comes to FAU with a wealth of music experience. He got his undergraduate degree at Ohio State University, where he played trumpet and wrote music for the marching band. He spent five years playing in Chicago as a trumpet soloist, and then got his masters in Instrumental Conducting and Trumpet from the University of Las Vegas. Before he came to FAU, Chapman spent three years as assistant director for the University of Washington’s 240-member marching band, where he began work on his doctorate degree in Instrumental Conducting.

While he worked on his master’s, Chapman started a marching band program at Foothill High School in Las Vegas. He says it was a similar situation to what he is now trying to do with FAU’s marching band. In just three years the band grew from 39 to 135 students.

Chapman says he has a lot of people working for him who make his job easy. He has three graduate assistants: Ben Skinner and Jimmy Martin, both respected high school band directors, and Dan Haddad, who coaches the drum line and wrote all the songs drum parts. In addition, Shannon Berkstresser directs the color guard, which now has ten students including two baton twirlers.

However, his wife Robyn, a middle school band director by trade, is his biggest support. “It means everything to me. She has quit two jobs to move with me for my career.”

For Chapman the best part of being a director is providing students with the opportunity to be in a band and experience music. “The experience is what the marching band is all about,” he says. “These students may not remember all of their college experiences, but they will remember their marching band, the camaraderie, the music and the trips.”

Rachael Joyner can be reached at [email protected].

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