MU becomes only SEC school with female athletic band director

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COLUMBIA — Dr. Erin Cooper said it is "very overwhelming" to be named the first female director in Marching Mizzou history.

"It was very exciting to get that offer, and almost didn’t seem real that I was going to get to come work here and be part of the SEC," Cooper said.

She was named director of athletic bands at the University of Missouri on July 13. Cooper is the first female director in the program's history and one of only two current female directors in the SEC. The other, Elva Kaye Lance, serves as director of bands at Mississippi State University. However, Cooper is the only woman in the SEC to currently serve as director of athletic bands.

Marching Mizzou, with more than 300 members, will be under new leadership for the first time since 2010.

Director of Athletic Bands Dr. Brad Snow left for the same position at Missouri State University, and Assistant Director of Bands Dr. Fuller Lyon left for his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to be interim assistant director of bands.

Cooper was previously the director of bands at Southeastern Oklahoma University, a Division II college in Durant, Oklahoma. She also was previously a graduate assistant for the Million Dollar Band, the marching band of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Cooper said she was first attracted to MU during Missouri's match up with Alabama in 2012.

"I remember they parked our bus at the back of the tailgating parking lot, and I was really concerned," she said. "Like, you know, the fans aren’t really friendly and it isn’t as safe of an environment, and everyone was just so friendly and so welcoming, so excited to see us."

MU School of Music director Dr. Julia Gaines said Cooper was the obvious choice.

"She was our top candidate, so, the fact she’s a woman is just icing on the cake," Gaines said. "Band directing is very much a male-dominated field, so I’m thrilled we’re starting to slowly move in that direction. I’m not sure if this is indicative of women in the field. I think some of this is luck, but I love the fact we’re breaking that barrier."

Marching Mizzou drum major Sean Kraus, who was also on the selection committee, said Cooper was the most personable and experienced.

"She definitely connected with the students the most," Kraus said. "She was very, very positive, had a lot of energy, and the students just definitely felt that she was the best for such a leadership position as is, so, everybody’s very excited and very pleased with the outcome."

Ben Wilton, a member from 2010-14, said he was happy with the hire and looks forward to his sister, a freshman at MU, being able to share traditions while trading old and new memories.

"I’m excited for my little sister, personally, that she’s going to have a new director, kind of a new face of Marching Mizzou," Wilton said. "I think she’ll have a different experience than I had, which is kind of cool, that she’s kind of following in my footsteps, but she’ll have her own experience in general, so I think that's pretty cool."

Cooper said she wants to continue the band's "great traditions," such as their pre-game show and the Missouri Waltz.

"I hope we can continue to have exciting halftime shows and add to everything that's existed here and is already wonderful," she said. "Great things have been happening and I want to make sure that continues."

Marching Mizzou is expected to make its 2016 debut on Sept. 10 vs. Eastern Michigan.

[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story named Dr. Erin Cooper the only female band director in the SEC. Dr. Cooper is one of two; Elva Kaye Lance is currently serving as director of bands at Mississippi State University.]

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