Erin Cooper makes history as MU’s first female band director

Marching Mizzou drum major Andrew Hopkins: “We have a new level of diversity on campus that we didn’t have before.”
Marching Mizzou pauses between songs during the warmup of the Tiger Showdown between the Mizzou and LSU Tigers at Death Valley Stadium.

For the first time in its 131-year history, Marching Mizzou is under the leadership of a female band director.

Erin Cooper, who served for a year as director of bands for Southeastern Oklahoma State University, is the only female athletic band director in the Southeastern Conference.

“Our clear priority is choosing the best candidate, and she just happened to be female,” said Julia Gaines, director of the MU School of Music.

Nonetheless, Gaines expressed enthusiasm regarding the historic hire.

“I’m just excited that we can have this role model for our female students who want to go into band directing,” Gaines said. “The majority is male, so it’s nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, here’s a female who’s done it.’”

Junior drum major Andrew Hopkins expressed a similar sentiment.

“When I found out that she was the first female band director at Mizzou, I was really looking forward to her bringing some new ideas that she might be able to implement at Mizzou,” Hopkins said. “I was really looking forward to some of the new experiences that she would be able to bring. We have a new level of diversity on campus that we didn’t have before.”

Prior to her appointment as director of Marching Mizzou, Cooper studied music education at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She then received her master’s degree in instrumental conducting from the University of Delaware and her doctorate in musical arts for wind conducting from the University of Alabama.

“So far, she’s just fantastic,” Hopkins said. “We’re doing so much this year that’s both new and better protocol for all of our rehearsals. We are at a really great place this year. She’s fairly direct, and she’s to the point, but it gets the job done.”

Marching Mizzou is the largest student organization on campus. It currently consists of more than 300 members. The group performs at both home and away football games.

Currently, the organization is preparing for their Homecoming performances.

“Tuesday through Friday, four to six, we’re on the practice field every day,” freshman Shoshana Jackson said. “We just run over drills constantly to make sure that we have everything down.”

Jackson plays clarinet for the band.

“A really unique part of the university is Homecoming, and Marching Mizzou has been a great tradition, too,” said junior Chris Dade, a trumpet player. “Incorporating two of the university’s best traditions is sort of unique, and we’re lucky to be a part of that.”

Edited by Kyra Haas |

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