If Southern Illinois had a soundtrack, the music would most likely be performed by the Marching Salukis of SIU Carbondale. After all, the collegiate band, dressed in tuxedoes and homburg hats, have represented the university and the region around the world. And, as they perform that sound track for Southern Illinois, it is a certainty that Mike Hanes would be directing the band.
For more than 30 years, Hanes has been synonymous with the Marching Salukis. Undoubtedly, some of the accolades for the success and reputation of the SIU musicians belongs to Hanes, but credit must be given to a long-forgotten and unnamed young man who was supposed to be a graduate assistant in music at SIU whose duties were to work with the marching band.
When this student backed out and chose not to accept the assistantship, it left then-SIU director of bands Don Canedy in a bit of a quandary. But he knew who to call: a first-year music teacher in the small town of Sandoval, some 67 miles north of Carbondale. That teacher was Mike Hanes. Hanes accepted the assistantship and began what would become a lifetime relationship with the Southern Illinois University marching band.
Raised in Salem, the son of a high school band teacher, Hanes originally thought he wanted to go into the fledgling field of broadcasting, and he began studying radio and television at Millikin University in Decatur. A few courses into his studies, he had an epiphany.
“I realized, ‘Wait a minute, you know you like to do this music thing. Why don’t you just change majors?’ So in my second year, I became a music major and finished my music education degree.”
After landing the job in Sandoval, his plan was to get a few years’ experience, go back to school to earn a master’s degree and return to teaching. Then the phone call came from a longtime friend of his father.
“Donald Candedy called in the spring of my first year, saying he had a last-minute graduate assistantship,” Hanes remembers. “He asked if I wanted to come down and get a master’s degree and work with the SIU bands. I said, ‘What the heck?’ and came to Carbondale.”
He began assisting with the marching band and directed the campus’ Air Force ROTC band. He also met and fell in love with a young woman cast in the university’s performance of “My Fair Lady.” He and Mary Jo have now been married nearly 50 years.
As Hanes was completing his master’s degree, Candedy took a position at Indiana State.
“Suddenly, SIU was looking for a marching band and percussion teacher,” Hanes says. “I was absolutely in the right place at the right time.”
In the fall of 1965, he became the director of the SIU marching band, a position he held until 1996.
“I didn’t want to retire, but I was seeing that marching band is a young man’s job,” he says. “After 30 years, I stopped doing that, but I had become more and more involved in musical theater.”
By the time he retired from SIU in 2005 as director of bands at the university, Hanes figures he had directed some songs — including the Star Spangled Banner and Go Southern Go — thousands of times. The word retired should be in quotation marks, because even after 2005 Hanes remains involved in the university and community. He’s active in performing arts venues and programs. He directs the band at summer playhouse theater events and every homecoming takes the platform to direct Marching Saluki alumni in a halftime performance.
“I still get a big kick out of it,” he says, adding he is proud of the band’s unofficial role as ambassadors for the university and region.
“Our uniforms didn’t say Southern or SIU anywhere, but everybody knew those uniforms and that style,” he says.
Hanes says he still enjoys watching the Marching Salukis.
“If it looks like they’re having fun, just like when I had the band, I feel great,” he says. “When I see them jumping up and down and doing silly stuff — within reason — I feel happiest, and, oh, that big march and swing sound. It gives me a lot of pride.”
While he says he doesn’t think about his legacy, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. He has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of student musicians and given the university community opportunities to smile with pride. In fact, some of the on-hold music that plays when individuals call SIU offices includes recordings of the band under Hanes’ direction.
“That’s fun when I call the campus,” he says with a grin. “The music has always been good to me.”
And Mike Hanes has always been good to the music.