UC Berkeley director of bands to step down after 28-year tenure

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UC Berkeley Director of Bands Robert Calonico announced Wednesday that he will retire from UC Berkeley in June, marking the end of his 28-year tenure.

Calonico was the director of UC Jazz Ensembles for five years before being hired as campus director of bands in 1995. In addition to directing the University of California Marching Band, or Cal Band, Calonico conducts the University Wind Ensemble and teaches applied woodwinds.

A born-and-raised Berkeley resident, Calonico attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate. As a student, he was an active member of the marching band, the wind ensemble, the orchestra and the contemporary chamber players. He also served as student director of Cal Band.

During Calonico’s tenure, the band performed at Super Bowl 50, played twice alongside the San Francisco Symphony and toured China and Japan. Cal Band also appeared on “Wheel of Fortune” twice.

Going into his 40th year of teaching, however, Calonico said he felt it was “time to do other things.”


“I had this thought in my head that I’d rather leave a little bit soon or right on time as opposed to one day too late,” Calonico said.

Many members of Cal Band said Calonico was not only a teacher but also an adviser and a source of support.

“He’s been not only a leader but also a friend,” said Samantha Yen, a member of Cal Band.

According to Calonico, the biggest motivating factor in his tenure has been his students. Calonico called the energy and enthusiasm of his students “contagious.”

Director of Cal Performances Matías Tarnopolsky called Calonico an “extraordinary” and “phenomenal” musician dedicated to the success of Cal Band and the wind ensemble.

“He was always there to listen and make your voice feel heard, and that was something that I always loved about Bob,” said Zac Commins, a Cal Band alumnus.

After he retires, Calonico said he hopes to stay involved with the campus music department. He said he also plans to spend more time performing and traveling with his wife, Sharon Calonico, a teacher and violinist.

According to Calonico, the campus has not yet found his successor.

“We are going to miss him sorely, but we are so appreciative of his 28-year service at Berkeley,” Tarnopolsky said.

Amber Tang is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.