The Professor Behind The Building of Rowan University’s Marching Band, Pride of the Profs

A close up of the Rowan University marching band drum major practicing on the athletic field with a dramatic sunset in front of him.

Megan Cooney’s love for music sparked in fourth grade. She went to a school assembly where they showed all the instruments. The reason why she picked percussion as her instrument is because it was the loudest instrument. 

Today she is the director of athletic bands and associate director of bands here at Rowan University. A 2011 graduate of Rowan, she earned her bachelor’s of music in Instrumental Music Education. This fall, she launched Rowan’s first professor-led marching band, called Pride of the Profs.

Professor Cooney is a first-generation college student and her parents really wanted her to go into a white collar field. Her dad is retired, and was a Philadelphia union carpenter for over 40 years and he never went to college. He went to carpentry vocational school. Her mom also didn’t go to college. She went to what was at the time secretarial school.

In high school, Prof. Cooney got good grades and graduated 15th in her class out of 350 students. For the longest time she wanted to do either physical therapy or sports medicine, something in the sciences having to do with the human body. That all changed during her junior year when she auditioned for American Music Abroad and auditioned into an orchestra that toured Europe for a month. That’s when she realized you could major in music.

Megan Cooney stands above the field leading the band while looking over her shoulder back to them.

Once she got to Rowan, she didn’t know that we were known to be a teaching school at that time. Her professors within the College of Performing Arts really looked out for her; they would sign her up for conducting symposiums and competitions outside of the department. “One of them was my percussion teacher who passed away recently, Dean Witten. Then the other person who really looked out for me when I was here was our director of bands who is now retired, Dr. John Pastin. They would personally pay for me to go to these things and just sign me up and push me to go do these things.” 

Marching band was never her main passion within music, but it was this activity that has followed her around her whole life. When she was here as a student, we didn’t have a marching band. We haven’t had one in a few decades and, even then, it was mostly student-led. There is this concept called teching, which is when you’re an assistant instructor for a larger marching band program. A lot of the students when Megan was here would make teching like a part-time job. Even though she wasn’t super passionate about marching band, she was still teaching it every year she was here. 

Prof. Cooney is a Grammy music educator quarterfinalist. She also presented at the national level on building marching bands. She has given state level presentations in Iowa and Illinois, and won the Yamaha Music Educators award.

Building a college marching man is a complicated thing to do. The University was the beneficiary of a donor, John T. Martinson, who supported Prof. Cooney’s vision and invest in what she was doing. Martinson’s donation was fundamental to provide the marching band with the basic building blocks of the program, including instruments, uniforms and field equipment, which allows them to run rehearsal. Martinson even came and interacted with the band, which was an important interaction for the students to see the man behind the dream.

For their uniforms, they collaborated with a company called Stanbury Uniforms. An in depth process spanning from a questionnaire about the University’s history, to sharing the University’s branding guidelines, and much more, Stanbury was an integral part of the visual of Pride of the Profs.

Prof. Cooney came up with some sketches of her own, in addition to what Stanbury provided, and that is where the focus on the owl feather came to be. When you’re really close up to the uniform, you can see that they’re feathers. When you’re really far away, it almost looks like fire.

Megan Cooney stands for a posed shot with the University mascot, the Prof.

The Rowan marching band is composed of about 135 students. They were aiming for about 75, but ended up having a lot more interest in the program. During band camp Prof. Cooney realized that the sheer size of an expanded marching band would create a ‘wow factor’ unseen before at the University.

Their halftime performance, ‘Rowan Through The Years’ was something Prof. Cooney came up with. A nod to Rowan’s centennial, Cooney created the performance with that mind.

Prof. Cooney says, “I was very thankful that the audience at the football game was really interactive with the band.” She wasn’t sure how that would go because there was never a marching band before, but people stayed in the stands to watch them perform. “I think that the students on the field perform for people who can further appreciate what they’re doing and look at it and listen to it with a more analytical view.” She wants the audience to feel the sensation of performing for people who have a further appreciation.

Go Profs!

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Written by: Jordyn Dauter, junior double major in dance & elementary education