Ohio Wesleyan University has found a new hand to guide its soon-to-be-resurgent marching band.

OWU announced earlier this month Mary Kate McNally, who earned a master's degree in music conducting at Kent State University in May, will serve as the university's director of marching and spirit bands starting in mid-August.

The school in March announced its intent to re-establish a marching band by fall 2018. OWU has gone without a band since the early 1960s.

Dwayne Todd, the university's vice president for student engagement and success, said the school selected McNally from a crowd of 25 applicants after a nationwide search. He said McNally's enthusiasm helped her stand out among a group of experienced candidates.

"The piece that was really exciting for us was the passion and energy she had for this work," he said.

McNally said she was overwhelmed to learn she would be the guiding force behind the resurrection of OWU's band.

"I cried. I was very excited," she said. "It's just such a rare opportunity to start a program."

McNally said one of her goals is to attract students with a diverse group of majors to the band.

"One of the most beautiful things about marching bands (is) they are kind of a snapshot of the university as a whole," she said.

Before McNally worked as an adjunct and assistant band director at Kent State, she earned an undergraduate degree at Henderson State University in Arkansas and served as a section leader in the school's Showband of Arkansas. Although OWU has a smaller enrollment than Henderson State, McNally said, both have the "small-school environment" she loves.

Although OWU's band will not debut for more than a year, Todd said, a buzz is building among alumni and students.

"What I'm hearing is people are growing in their excitement for it," he said.

While he expects staff and student feedback to play a role in the band's creation, Todd said McNally will be the key leader in the year before the band's debut.

"She gets to make a lasting mark on the program and shape it from day one," he said.

Todd said he anticipates the band "being focused mainly on entertainment" as opposed to competitions.

University officials have not yet determined at which events the band will play other than basketball and football games. The band could take part in parades and other area celebrations.

McNally said even if she had not gotten the job, she would have been heartened by OWU's decision to bring back a marching band. She called the move a "huge rarity" in 2017.

McNally said she's thrilled and somewhat surprised to be leading a university band at this stage in her career.

"This is far beyond anything I could ever dream of doing (at this point)," she said.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick