On Wednesday, October 21, the Johnson Band Center was officially dedicated in a 12:30 pm ceremony on the building’s front lawn. The new building is named for Vickie and Gene Johnson, UNC Charlotte alumni whose generous support launched the “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band.
In his opening remarks at the event, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois recalled feeling that something was amiss at the first home football game three years ago — even though the 49ers came away with a victory before a packed crowd in Jerry Richardson Stadium.
"But even amongst the noise of the extremely enthusiastic crowd, there was still something missing … live music. Fortunately, a couple of very special people were determined to bring music to the game day experience in the form of a marching band," he said at the dedication, speaking of Vickie and Gene Johnson. "Their tireless commitment to that goal led to the creation of a drumline in record time ... and this year, their vision was fully realized in the debut of the 'Pride of Niner Nation' Marching Band."
The “Pride of Niner Nation” made its debut at this year’s first home football game against Presbyterian College on Sept. 12.
“On the morning of Saturday, September 12, when the Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band took their first steps down the hill from the Student Union Building leading to Richardson Stadium, it was clear that our university had changed for the better,” said Director of Bands Shawn Smith to the assembled audience. “The final game day piece was in place—we already had a terrific football team, a beautiful stadium, and great fan base; now we had a stellar marching band!”
The band currently has 145 members, but is expected to eventually include as many as 350 members. The band membership includes students from every college at UNC Charlotte, representing nearly 40 different degree programs.
“A university marching band is so much more than a group of students that help cheer on our team and perform at football games,” said Dr. Smith. “It is a university ambassador. It is a source of great 49er pride throughout the community and region. It is the most visible musical organization on campus. It is a terrific recruiting tool for every college and major on campus, and it is a strong social and support network for our students.”
Designed by Watson Tate Savory, the 6,700-square-foot Johnson Band Center features a conference room, workroom and offices. It also includes restrooms, a drum storage room and ample space to store musical instruments, uniforms and color guard equipment for the entire marching band.
Vickie and Gene Johnson, members of the classes of 1971 and 1973, respectively, have been generous supporters of the University and actively involved in the growth and progress of UNC Charlotte. In his address to the audience, Mr. Johnson expressed the pride that fans felt upon first hearing the band, saying it "brought tears to eyes" and "made toes tingle."