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FAMU unable to finalize contract with new band director, cancels press conference

Florida A&M University abruptly cancelled a press conference to announce its new band director this morning, leaving an auditorium full of curious students, faculty and media wondering why the school couldn't agree on a contract with the sole remaining finalist.

"Somehow they did not meet the negotiation process and they will not be able to name a candidate," university spokeswoman Sharon Saunders said shortly after announcing to the crowd that the press conference was cancelled.

The university has refused to say which one of four finalists was offered the job, though Saunders said he is in Tallahassee meeting with school officials to seal the deal. The announcement is guaranteed to draw nationwide scrutiny as the Marching 100 band attempts to rebuilt after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

Saunders said she didn't know what specifically hampered contract negotiations other than it had to do with concerns about the role of the band director in light of efforts to reorganize the band.

"There's some concern about the structure of the band," she said.

The school is in the process of hiring additional staff to create more oversight of the band, which is suspended but could return as early as the fall. Also, the position of band director has been separated from the position of music department chair.

FAMU announced Monday afternoon that the press conference would happen in the Lee Auditorium this morning. Since then, band members have been buzzing about who may have got the job and who didn't.

Many of them hoped Shelby Chipman, the associate director of bands who had been groomed for years to assume the top position, would be selected. But rumors persisted that Chipman, one of four finalists, had been passed over and that North Carolina Central University band director Jorim Reid, a former Marching 100 drum major, was offered the job.

Dontay Douglas, a senior from Miami who served as band president during the 2009 and 2010 marching seasons, said he has nothing against Reid but feels that Chipman is the most qualified.

"He's studied under legends in the world of music in this nation," Douglas said.