By Julia Poska
For Eric Bush, the new director of the Hawkeye Marching Band, taking a job as the University of Iowa’s associate director of bands feels like a natural progression. He received his doctorate from Iowa in 2015 before moving east with his wife to be assistant director of bands at Penn State.
“After three years, this job opened up, and of course, this was a dream for us, coming back to Iowa,” he said. “We loved our time here.”
Bush started his education in his home state at Central Michigan University. He fell in love with conducting college-level bands as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Montana, where he got a master’s in trumpet performance.
He directed at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, New York, for four years before returning to school. As a teaching assistant at the UI, he worked closely with the concert and athletics bands, an experience he called “incredibly valuable.”
“It was experience you wouldn’t get everywhere,” he said. “That experience from Iowa is what really got me the job at Penn State and then, of course, elevated my experience to a level that I was qualified to be associate director of bands here.”
Bush is excited to reunite with his doctorate mentor, Director of Bands Mark Heidel.
Heidel is excited about his new colleague, too. He said Kevin Kastens, the former associate director, has left the program in great shape.
“I feel as good about [the transition] as I think I could feel,” he said. “I think it’ll be really successful.”
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Heidel said he is confident that Bush will bring a fresh perspective to the Marching Band while still honoring storied traditions.
Bush confirmed that. “My vision for that is to take every really good tradition Iowa has in terms of Marching Band and keep it exactly as is,” he said.
He would leave such traditions as the historic pregame routine untouched while enhancing other areas of the program, he said. He would like to update halftime shows with video boards and collaborations, potentially with such jazz groups as the UI’s Johnson County Landmark.
Watch for exciting announcements about the third game of the season against UNI, in particular, he said.
Bush is excited to work with Iowa’s students as well and is recruiting Marching Band members for a social-media and public-relations team to promote the band.
“I think they’re hungry to do some new things,” he said. “They want to know certainly that someone’s going to steward their traditions for the band and all that, but I think they’re excited for new ideas, new innovation.”
Music-education major Bjorn Swanson, a Marching Band trombone player, first met Bush years ago at a Midwest Band Clinic in Chicago and talked with him a few times over the course of the hiring process.
“He’s pretty high energy,” Swanson said. “He seems like he knows what he wants to do with the band.”
Swanson is a bit concerned about getting the Marching Band all on the same page, with a new director and four new TAs, but said he is mostly looking forward to the season.
“It’ll be exciting for me to see the direction he takes the band,” Swanson said. “It’ll just be fun to have a first year again in terms of new ideas.”