RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – At Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the marching bands often steal the show. While people come for football games, it’s the halftime show that really cements the experience.
Whether it’s the fast pace of the “Sound Machine” at North Carolina Central University or the slow methodical “Snake Walk” of the famed Marching 100 at Florida A&M University, the pageantry of marching bands at HBCUs is something that cannot be duplicated.
Even PepsiCo sees it. They recently released a commercial called “The Halftime Game, ” featuring bands from schools like FAMU and Jackson State University.
“It’s like none other. You want to strike up the band if you’re a football player,” said Tiffany Greene, ESPNHBCU color analyst and Florida A&M grad. She knows the experience firsthand. She sees it every Saturday in the fall.
“It’s the soundtrack for the football game. So, there is no football game without a band,” she said. “I would argue they are equally as important as the football team.”
At North Carolina Central, when it comes to The Sound Machine, drum majors Donnell Troy Jr. and Hasan Gaddy aren’t playing around.
“Being in the marching band, you create more of a family ora, so when you’re here, you say, I actually feel like home,” Troy said.
“The culture is very different. It’s very fun to be in and just have fun,” Gaddy added.
The marching band at NCCU was founded in 1938. Band Director Thurman Hollins said the 130-plus piece band and its rich history really teach as much as about life as it does music.
“We represent the entire school all in one ensemble,” he pointed out.
That includes when it comes to class. It’s about striking the right chord for success.
“That’s part of our daily announcements ya know… go to class. We break them into clusters of students by major within the band, so they can mentor each other and tutor each other,” added Hollins.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities depend on the draw of the band in more ways than one. Not just to fill the stands to entertain the crowds, but to be an educational pied piper of sorts — luring students to attend the schools to continue a culture of academic legacy.
That is on full display in a recent McDonald’s commercial featuring a Shaw University grad and her son who is marching in his mother’s footsteps.
“This is something that I never would’ve dreamed of in my wildest dreams to be a part of that project,” said Shaw’s Band Director Andrae King.
And like the commercial shows, band is a great way to attract students, both legacy and first timers alike.