Words by: Keytron Hill
Battle of the Bands: Florida A&M University v. Tennessee State University
“Drumline” is the only word that could cross my mind as the Florida A&M Marching 100 and Tennessee State Marching Tigers battled it out, face to face, in FAMU’s Gaither Gym September 25, exactly one day before the two universities football teams battled it out at Bragg stadium, both bands decided to put on a battle of their own.
Gaither Gym was filled to capacity, leaving rattlers standing in anticipation around the court. TSU’s chairs were lined up back to back in rows, lifeless, while FAMU chairs were curved in an arch, a tradition that has been around for years. In a small section in the middle of the stands sat the fans and fellow students of TSU, who despite their size, came with pride to cheer their fellow band members on. FAMU, being the home school, roared over TSU. Rattlers were throwing snakes and doing the “Quan,” eagerly waiting for the Marching 100 to enter the room.
TSU entered first. Their Drum majors were high stepping and the band was marching to an upbeat tempo, showing that they came ready to play. The marching 100, on the other hand, decided to enter Drum majors only. They walked in slowly and dramatically. Once they were in their spots, the Drum majors blew their whistles to let the rest of the band know it was time to rattle in. Quick steps plunged into the ground at a fast pace, foot after foot. The entire room stood to their feet; excited to see that the Marching 100 hasn’t lost it’s effect.
The battle began with TSU. Let me just say, as member of the Marching 100 (Fall 11), you may say I’m biased, but let’s make things clear, TSU came to win. They played their best 90s hits and songs that got the crowd hype.
FAMU band president and alto saxophone player, Emanuel Rodriguez shared his thoughts on TSU band, “They showed up, they did their thing. It just sucks that they seemed so average compared to the 100, they did bring a lot of supporters and they did provide some sound but nothing in comparison to the Marching 100.”
Now let’s rewind to the scene of “Drumline” when Atlanta A&T played, “Flight of the Bumblebee” and Morris Brown played, “Jump on it.” Musically A&T was clearly great and it showed that they had amazing musicality and technical skills, but Morris Brown played songs that the crowd knew. The marching 100 played hits like “Malaguena,” a Spanish song written in 1928 by Cuban composer, Ernesto Lecuona. They jammed to the sounds S.O.S then took the crowd to church with the gospel song, “Total praise.” The entire room sang along as the Marching 100 showed they could play piano, mezzo forte and forte all in the same song.
“We have the right to be arrogant and to play, “Flight of the Bumblebee” and marches because we can. Our fundamentals, and that’s in the fundamentals of band, is to show technicality and the things that made us the marching 100 since 1946,” said Rodriguez.
The real musicians in the room understood that Director of Bands, Shelby Chipman, came with the plan to musically send TSU a lesson, who clearly couldn’t play technical marches, let alone “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
The real battle started after both alma maters were played and the ladders were folded and the gloves were taken off. People started to leave, thinking the show was over, but little did they know, it had just begun. The Bands went song from, switching directors and conductors until the night came to an end.
“It was a good display of musicianship, especially for the marching 100. That was the first time since my four years here that I saw that much school spirit,” said Andrew Thompson, as he shared his recap on the musical night.