Shannon Conley, a french horn player who graduated last May, labored day in and out to procure the new marching band uniforms she was promised, yet never got the chance to wear herself.
Former band director Shayna Stahl started the process to purchase new uniforms for The Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band in 2015, but numerous hurdles — including committee approvals and downsized budgets — drew it out. According to the current band director, Dr. Justin R. Stolarik, “no one that was in on the design process is wearing them.”
The band finally brandished the fresh garb this past November. Until then, the band wore the original stock uniforms — often compared to The Nutcracker or toy soldiers — used since the band’s inception in 2006.
According to Stolarik and Interim Associate Dean, Jeffrey Barnett, who also worked on the uniforms, the shelf life for a typical band uniform is between seven and 10 years. Stony Brook’s uniforms were worn for more than 14.
Conley said that seeing the new uniforms “was a major relief.” She had served on the committee tasked with purchasing the new attire since conversations had started in 2015. However, before discussions about financing for the uniforms could even begin, the design needed to be finalized.
The process began with various companies submitting their own visions for the new uniforms. Barnett noted that part of the decision-making was figuring out “what do we want?” Ideas ranged from traditional, military fashions to more modern styles similar to the one that would eventually be chosen.
Director Emeritus John Leddy claimed that “there must have been five or eight designs” that were considered. One of the frontrunners was completely black, with only small accents of red. Any proposed layout required approval from the Office of Marketing and Communications, as well as organizations like The Division of Student Life.
Once the design was finalized, the marching band executive board was ready to move on to purchasing and procurement procedures. There was no need to fundraise since the money had already been earmarked by former Stony Brook president, Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny, who started the band. However, thanks to a significant budget deficit in recent years, rules imposed in an effort to avoid risky spending made the funds practically untouchable.
The board believed it best to purchase 300 uniforms to cover the magnitude of members seen each year, making the price tag around $120,000. State procedure dictates that a purchase of this scale requires at least three quotes or a price justification and a contract advertisement to make it a reality. Two band director changes during the process only added confusion.
By the time Stolarik was appointed in 2018, the deliberations were over and the purchase was ready to be completed. As soon as he was able, he brought what had been a concept for four years to life.
“This process should really only have taken a year, year and a half,” Stolarik said.
The uniforms arrived only a few weeks after the purchase was made. The pants were all black, the jackets red, with a white front and a large “SB” logo painted across it. In the words of sophomore engineering chemistry major and baritone player, Brian McElroy, “It looked less generic, more Stony Brook.”
Although she never wore one, Conley considers the new uniforms “a really big win for the band.”
Junior electrical engineering major and tenor saxophonist, Michael Charumaneeroj, is grateful that “they are adjustable length-wise,” while Stony Brook graduate and former band president, Alexander Peck, likes that the large logo is “recognizable from a distance.” Clarinetist and junior biology and psychology double major Chris Mayer, on the other hand, was thrilled to have pockets, making it easier to carry reeds or valve oil.
Band members believe the uniforms have led to a heightened sense of pride on campus, which was what former President Kenny wanted when the band was created.
“I am so proud of the band and all it has accomplished,” she said. “They have become a part of what makes students want to be at Stony Brook. It’s come a long way since that first year when it was 17 members strong.”