The music man

At the University of Maine, Christopher White leads the Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band, Screamin’ Black Bear Pep Band, and the Symphonic Band, UMaine’s highest level audition group. Bands under White’s direction average 70 public performances per year and provide the UMaine soundtrack that successfully links generations of students, alumni and fans.


Christopher White:
We’re going to do something a little different today. Do you all remember the number groups you were in last night?


Christopher White:
Music is an art. It needs three things to survive. You need composers, who create the music. You need performers, who perform the music, because music is a performing art. It has to have that group of people who will take what’s on the written page and recreate the music. Then you need people to listen. Music education needs to serve all three of those areas in some way.

I direct the University of Maine Symphonic Band, which is our top auditioned ensemble. They perform two concerts a semester. In the spring they tour throughout the state for four days to help recruit for the university.

And I direct the University of Maine Marching Band. They perform in the fall for football games, local parades and events. We do an exhibition at the state marching show to recruit kids from there as well.

And I direct the Screamin’ Black Bear Pep Band, which meets in the fall and spring. They play at all home men’s ice hockey games and all home men’s and women’s basketball games. We perform other little functions on campus as needed as well.

Jay Baines:
He puts a lot of pride in making we sure have a system. The system works. We have a plan. If we put the plan in action, we’ll get everything done in no time, and we keep going. As long as you stick to the plan, stick to the system, everything works perfectly.

Phoenix Mitchell:
Mr. White, as any band director would, they’re the parent of the band. It’s like he is the mediator. He tells you what to do and what you cannot do. Then sometimes he makes it fun. Sometimes you have to work to do the best that you can in the band.

It’s really nice working with him. He’s been working here for a very long time, so he’s like an uncle to me, basically.

Jessica Oriente:
Mr. White’s teaching style is very student-oriented, because the band couldn’t run without its students. I think he realizes that and puts a lot of effort into putting the students and their thoughts into the show.

For instance, to choose the shows for next year he gathers up the student leaders — drum majors and section leaders — and we throw out our thoughts on what we want the show to be. He recognizes that and definitely works with us.

He does also push us a lot. That’s how you get better at something. It’s definitely student-oriented.

Christopher White:
I enjoy the students and interacting with them. I enjoy making music.

Each year becomes even more enjoyable because I do think we have a rich history here, and they’re becoming part of what we’re doing. I enjoy sharing that with them, and I enjoy sharing what we have at the university when we go off-campus, because I don’t think everyone always knows all the things that go on here.

When you can get out in the public, everyone’s appreciative. Some of them are even surprised, like, “Wow, I didn’t know.” As soon as we can take someone who says, “Wow, I didn’t know,” and they have a positive experience, it’s a great thing for all of us.