New FIU marching band director looks to future

By Jean-Paul Renaud….
How do you build tradition? At Florida International University, that’s a question being asked — and answered —every day on the playing field, and in the classroom and the student center.

But nowhere is that question so poignant than in the minds of FIU’s marching band members. It’s a band whose history, and future, resembles that of the university itself — from birth to cuts to inevitable rebirth.

As FIU’s Homecoming week approaches, this group of musicians will take a leading role as the university community rallies around its school, the football team and school traditions.

“FIU is an emotionally exciting experience, and our marching band energizes our students and reminds them of the incredible opportunities that FIU brings to them,” said FIU president Mark Rosenberg.

Homecoming week will culminate with FIU taking on the University of Louisiana (Monroe) on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. For a full schedule of activities, visit online at <>.

Tradition is what drives the marching band’s new director, Barry W. Bernhardt, who arrived this summer from Southeast Missouri State to rebuild the program.

“The band serves a multitude of roles for a university. It should be one of the most spirited groups on campus. They should lead the charge in excitement and energy, build enthusiasm and loyalty to the alma mater,” Bernhardt said.

In about five months, the marching band has grown to 110 members with a goal of 200 more. And in the next two to three years, the reconstruction of the marching band will include a new song, a new name and a new style.

Bernhardt has started with the basics such as having the band members learn proper breathing techniques. But beyond the nuance, Bernhardt knows that an excellent band is fueled by and creates tradition.

“If we want to make it to the big time, which we can here, we have to act like it and we have to do it from day one,” Bernhardt said. “We have to invest in the kids.”

Bernhardt, who has been a band director for 26 years, has been on the production staff of Bowl Games of America for the past 20 years and choreographed seven halftime shows last year that aired on television, including the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Gator Bowl.

Bernhardt said the band eventually will play a wide variety of music and already has asked a composer friend from New York to pen a new signature song, the FIU Samba.
“Big-time college marching bands, big time football, have a song that you can immediately recognize,” he said. “We don’t have that. When people hear the FIU Samba or see a picture of the band, we want them to immediately recognize us.”

Bernhardt’s goal is to have close to a 200-member band by next year and 300 band members in three to four years.

“The bigger the band, the bigger the voice,” he said. “And the greater the identity.”

For more information about FIU, visit online at

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