Dr. Justin R. Stolarik standing in the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium bleachers. He will be the Stony Brook Athletic Bands director this upcoming year. PHOTO COURTESY STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY MARCHING BAND

Dr. Justin R. Stolarik was officially hired as the new Stony Brook University Athletic Bands director on June 27. Although the announcement is recent, Dr. Stolarik has been working with the university as the interim band director since September 2018. Before coming to Stony Brook, he previously served as director of Athletic Bands and the gene braught chair in music as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma.

In the short time Dr. Stolarik held the interim position at Stony Brook, he accumulated a list of commendable achievements and he’s just getting started. He has already met with leaders of the band to review and refresh standards within the drumline. Julie Micko, a junior biology major, has been with the band since her freshman year. She is now the drumline captain in the band and plays the bass drum. “A few of us with leadership positions in the band/drumline met with Dr. Stolarik to review the Drumline Handbook that he and [Percussion Director] Mr. Ayala worked together to create,” Micko said. “The purpose of this is to create a solid foundation for our current and future drumline so that we can all be on the same page and set a definitive standard for the quality and look that we want our drumline to have.”

He coordinated the inaugural spring concert, taught a new and intricate drill, designed high-quality field shows, arranged new music and provided strong musical instruction for band members.

“Dr. Stolarik brought a new tuning sequence for the brass and the woodwinds, it’s much more in depth and much more intense than what we had pre-Dr. Stolarik,” Benjamin Michalowicz, senior computer science major, said. He has also been in the band since his freshman year. Michalowicz started out on the snare drum and worked his way up to become section leader for the snare line. “Coming from a drummers perspective, to hear it every single time I’m with the band, it gives me some chills.”

Dr. Stolarik received his Doctorate of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in percussion performance at the University of Texas at Austin and his bachelor’s degree in music education with highest honors at the University of Florida. Here in New York, he has been an active freelance musician and conductor in New York City. He has worked with many of Manhattan’s accomplished bands. He was the associate conductor for the Manhattan Wind Ensemble. He also served as the artistic director of the National Lesbian & Gay Association Marching Band.

Being a drummer himself, Dr.Stolarik was also a percussionist with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony (BKWS). Dr. Stolarik’s work with BKWS took him to Carnegie Hall and to the 2015 World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) International Conference in San Jose, California.

Dr. Stolarik’s talents aren’t only limited to bands. He has also worked with skilled performers such as Black Eyed Peas member, will.i.am ⁠and Ghostland Observatory ⁠— amongst many others. 

All of Dr. Stolarik’s experience has been extremely beneficial to the band in just about every aspect. It has made them sound and look better. They look better because he has taught them detailed drills and field shows that require the entire band to march as one. As a band, they have become more precise musicians and sound more professional thanks to Dr. Stolarik’s musicianship.  “Everyone I’ve talked to about it is glad that he’s been brought back on, he’s been really good at pushing us to try new things,” Thomas Finelli, senior English major, said. Finelli has played the trumpet with the band for four years. “Whether it be marching techniques that allow us to do more intricate shows, or having a larger music repertoire to play,” Finelli said. “I’ve been pretty satisfied with what he’s done so far.” 

Dr. Stolarik is also approachable and open to new ideas. These characteristics make him a very strong and successful director. “He is very down to earth and very easy to talk to, very easy to receive ideas and suggestions from,” Michalowicz said.

The band is currently made up of around 180 musicians and their goal is to reach at least 200  members or more. It seems to be a good time to join and participate since the band is expected to only get better under Dr. Stolarik’s ambitious and strong direction.