Marching into the Future

The Frost Band of the Hour, the beloved marching band for the famed Miami Hurricanes football and basketball teams, is striding into the future with new leaders and new funding for students.
The Frost Band of the Hour in action. Photo by Joshua Prezant/University of Miami.

The Frost Band of the Hour (FBOTH), the marching band that revs up the crowds at Miami Hurricanes football and basketball games, is a beloved and storied University of Miami institution that’s boosted school spirit for almost as long as the University has existed. 
Now the group is living up to its of-the-moment name in a new way. Headed by two dynamic new leaders and backed by major new donations, the Band of the Hour is embarking on a new era as longtime director Jay Rees retires and the University prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2025. And the FBOTH leadership has embarked on a new push to recruit more members and newly engage the community to join them for these exciting changes.
The promise is to lift the Band of the Hour to new heights, with increased scholarships and stipends for members; as well as new music and new ways to inspire, not only ardent University ‘Canes fans, but South Florida sports lovers for whom the Hurricanes football and basketball teams are beloved local icons, that represent the U and Miami-Dade across the country.

The Frost Band of the Hour after performing at the 2022 Ultra Music Festival. Photo by:  Kirk Sibley

The Frost Band of the Hour playing at Hard Rock Stadium. Photo courtesy: Frost School of Music

“This is a band with such a long-lasting tradition, such great music and such a wonderful culture of support,” says Craig McKenzie, the new director of athletic bands, and a Frost DMA alumnus who helped lead the FBOTH as a teaching assistant. “U of M football is an activity the entire community comes together for, and the Band of the Hour is the soundtrack.”

“This band has to be known for making the Hard Rock rock,” says Sheldon McLean, the incoming assistant director of bands and associate director of athletic bands, who learned about shaking stadiums as a member of Florida A&M University’s legendary Marching 100 and is also a Frost DMA alumnus. “The University of Miami is South Florida’s school, the Hurricanes are South Florida’s team. We gotta represent all of what Miami is, musically and culturally, at the highest level.”

New donations are bolstering those ambitions. A longtime FBOTH enthusiast, Miami native, School of Law alumnus, and lifelong Hurricanes fan, made a generous gift to help the Band of the Hour boost its numbers from an average of 110 to 120, to an ambitious 200 members. Stipends for band members will double to $2,000 - $3,000 annually. Funds will also go towards recruiting and retaining new members, as well as instruments, uniforms and other expenses. 

Meanwhile, another University and Band of the Hour alumnus, Carmine Parente, has pledged $1 million in matching funds – potentially doubling his gift - for donations for scholarships for students who join the FBOTH. The group includes the marching band, a pep band for basketball games, a banner-waving color guard and the Huricanettes dance team.

“This is going to help greatly in recruiting and retaining students,” says Frost professor and Chair of Instrumental Performance Robert Carnochan, who will now oversee Band of the Hour as the new Director of Bands. While 200 is an ambitious number for a private school like the University of Miami, which has approximately 12,000 undergraduates, Carnochan is optimistic they will eventually get there. “Craig and Sheldon and the culture they develop in this new era will be an incredibly positive and nurturing culture that people will want to be part of,” Carnochan says.

Students from throughout the University, not just the Frost School, are welcome in Band of the Hour. So are students from local colleges, such as Miami Dade College, that don’t have their own marching bands. All participants earn course credit, get University swag – and, of course, get to be part of some of South Florida’s biggest sports events with teams that play on a national stage. Last year the Hurricanes Men’s basketball team played in the NCAA Final Four for the first time.

The Frost Band of the Hour after performing at the 2022 Ultra Music Festival. Photo by:  Kirk Sibley

The Frost Band of the Hour after performing at the 2022 Ultra Music Festival. Photo by:  Kirk Sibley

Both McKenzie and McLean are lifelong marching band devotees, and experienced educators who’ve led band programs at multiple schools, dedicated to the marching band values of community and tradition. Rees, who graduated from the Frost School in 1984 and was part of the FBOTH, returned in 2014 to lead the group, becoming immensely popular. Now his successors will revitalize that tradition for a new generation. 

McKenzie was a drum major at the University of Colorado, while Carnochan led the athletic band program there. He also wrote his doctoral essay at Frost on the history of the University of Miami band program. Most recently, he served as director of the athletic band program at San Jose State University for six years, rebuilding it after the pandemic by performing in major community and corporate events like a Pride parade and an Apple developers’ conference. 

McKenzie plans to gradually update the FBOTH repertoire with songs from the likes of Pitbull, Lil Nas X, and Flo Rida, and other music that will reflect Miami’s dynamic urban culture, and to continue a community-building program he started at San Jose of having local high school bands to play with FBOTH during halftime.

“One of my big goals for Band of the Hour is to make it the soundtrack of South Florida,” says McKenzie. “I’m committed to creating that connection to the community that only music can bring.”

McLean, a Fort Lauderdale native, performed with the Marching 100 with Prince at the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show and for President Obama’s 2008 inauguration. He was director of bands at Dillard Center for the Arts in Broward, a leading arts magnet public school with a nationally renownedjazz program. Now he aims to bring everything he’s learned to a Miami institution he admires immensely.

 “We want to stand on the shoulders of giants,” McLean says. “We want people to know this is the place to be if you want to be in a dynamic band. If you want to have a lot of fun and tear it up every time we perform, this is the place.”