Arnald D. Gabriel, who retired in March as the conductor of the U.S. Air Force band, will become chairman of George Mason University's performing arts department July 1, according to university officials.

Gabriel's appointment is part of the university's attempt to develop its reputation in the performing arts and the humanities, a school spokesman said.

The department includes the theater, music and arts divisions at the state university in Fairfax, which has 15,000 full- and part-time students. The school is constructing a $21 million building to house its arts and humanities programs.

A retired colonel, Gabriel, 59, will be paid $60,000, which is $20,000 more than the average pay for a full professor at the school. His appointment will come before the university's board of visitors, its governing body, for approval May 8, college officials said.

Gabriel became commander and conductor of the Air Force band in 1964, leading it through two international tours. He has been guest conductor for 16 other bands and orchestras and is a recipient of numerous awards, both military and civilian.

George W. Johnson, university president, said in a statement that Gabriel's appointment "symbolizes George Mason's commitment to the arts on both a regional and national scale."

The statement said that the school hopes to increase its prominence in the areas of public policy, high technology and undergraduate education.

George Mason has an orchestra, jazz ensemble and woodwind band. It offers undergraduate degrees in music, theater and dance, and a master's degree in music. There are 134 performing arts majors at the undergraduate level and 15 candidates for master's degrees.