By T. Scott Boatright
Call it a coda, or outro, but after serving as a Louisiana Tech fixture for 30 years, Band of Pride Director Jim Robken has decided it’s time to put down his conducting baton.
Robken, a native of El Dorado High School and a Tech music education graduate, attended the University of Arkansas to pursue his master’s in music theory and composition.
It was during his second year in Fayetteville when Robken was awarded a graduate assistantship at Arkansas by Director of Bands Eldon Janzen.
His primary role was to serve as the band director of the Hogwild Band for basketball, while also helping with the Razorback Marching Band for football.
And that’s where Robken’s expertise of leading bands during athletic events began.
Any supporter of Louisiana Tech athletics knows that over the years, Robken has brought Tech fans to their feet cheering probably more times than any athlete has.
Tech President Les Guice realizes that fact.
“Jim brought fun and energy to every event where the Tech Band was present,” Guice said. “He has played a pivotal role in instilling traditions, loyalty, pride and a passion for Tech through his leadership. He brought the term ‘Band of Pride’ to life every day.”
He oversaw his last band event last weekend as Tech held its annual spring concert outdoors in Centennial Plaza.
“I’ve been doing this so long I’ve had a lot of second generation band members and have started getting band grandkids now,” Robken joked.
Current Tech band member Peyton Bouvillian confirmed that with a recent Facebook tribute to Robken.
“I want to thank him for all the things he’s taught us in Band over the last 4 years, and all the things he taught me this quarter regarding conducting,” Bouvillion wrote. “It’s definitely hard to see him go, especially after knowing him for so many years. But I’m also glad to be a part of his last band, just as my Dad was a part of his first at Tech. Next year’s going to be exciting and new, but it just won’t be the same without the man in the hat. We’ll miss you JROB! Have a great retirement!”
Robken admits wrapping up his career as a band director during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been tougher during the pandemic, worrying about all the aerosols and how to handle all of those kinds of things,” Robken said. “All the guidelines and what we felt we were safe with. But the Band of Pride remained a family throughout. We stayed safe, but we stayed family.”
Robken says that he believes he’ll stay on in Ruston after retirement.
“I’m looking for a house here,” Robken said. “I’m going to see if I can figure that out. And then past that, I’m not sure.”
“I’ve had such a great relationship with the Ruston community and love it here. And being a band director, which I love to do, is such a wonderful job. I can’t believe they paid me to do it. There have been so many changes at Tech over the years that I’ve been there. I’ve seen a lot of things happen. I shook my head at some and cheered for the others. But most of all, it has been a lot of fun.”