Halftime is game time for bands at HBCUs

Published 8:31 am Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Saturday I’ll attend my first HBCU football game from start to finish. The previous one I attended was in 2010 in my hometown of Fayetteville, N.C. It was the Fayetteville State University Broncos and the Winston-Salem State University Rams. I don’t remember too much of the game, because my sole purpose for attending was to catch up with friends from high school. This was the year I went back home because I played around too much my freshman year.

Saturday will be different as I’m actually covering the game between Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State.

One thing I’m looking forward to iwatching Alcorn and Valley’s marching bands, since at HBCUs halftime is game time.

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Marching bands are a staple at HBCUs and if you’ve seen the 2001 comedy “Drumline” you’ll understand the relationship between HBCUs and their bands. Honda even sponsors a “Battle of the Bands” competition in January featuring the most talented and creative field shows of the year.

I’ve lived in almost every modern southern state — Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and now Mississippi — and the farther south I travel, I’ve noticed a shift in the consensus favorite band between states.

Where I’m from, it’s North Carolina A&T’s Blue and Gold Marching Machine. I truly believe this is the cleanest and most precise band in terms of sound, marching, creativity and auxiliary. I still enjoy watching their 2009 B.O.T.B.-winning field show. They went with a theme for their drill, ballad and auxiliary routine featuring music from R&B artist Usher.

When you get to Georgia, the focus shifts to Florida A&M’s Marching 100.

FAMU is traditionally known for being a larger band — at one point it had 400 members — that allowed it to be louder than most and move in intricate formations. I find that FAMU’s sound is not always the cleanest.

Crossing through Alabama and into Mississippi, I’ve found the state to be divided between Jackson State’s Sonic Boom of the South and Southern University’s Human Jukebox. Jackson State and Southern both have loud and powerful bands with unique arrangements for music.

Music is subjective and makes sense why people in different states prefer the bands in proximity. I’ve never seen or heard anything from Alcorn or Mississippi Valley State so I’m excited to see their styles, drum majors, routines and musical choices Saturday.

Alex Swatson is a sports writer. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, Ext. 178, or via email at alex.swatson@vicksburgpost.com