Now we all know when it comes to marching bands, HBCU bands are undefeated. From halftime shows, Battle of the Bands, parades, and televised performances, these bands represent the spirit and soul of their historically black college/university. So, we made a list of the top 10 HBCU bands that have been killing it over the last few years in no particular order.
Bethune Cookman University
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Bethune Cookman University’s “Marching Wildcats” is a 325 member unit consisting of instrumentalists, the Sophisticat Flag Corp, and the 14 Karat Gold Dancers. This band also goes by the name of “The Pride” and has delivered memorable half-time performances. Netflix show, Marching Orders, is a series about the BCU Marching Wildcats and their competitive journey.
North Carolina A&T State University
Location: Greensboro, North Carolina
North Carolina A&T State University’s “Blue and Gold Marching Machine” consists of around 200 members performing various genres of music and all styles of marching. NCAT’s marching band has had much success over the years and has been seen performing in televised events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Blue and Gold Marching Machine’s auxiliary unit, the “Golden Delight”, features the Baton twirlers and dancers.
Norfolk State University
Location: Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk State University’s “Spartan Legion” is an award winning marching band and is known to many as one of the best bands in the country. It consists of 250 musicians, dancers, and flags from across the country. The “Legion” band exudes a synchronized and precise military style including high-stepping along with their majestic sound. They have also performed for televised events such as former President, Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign rally in Norfolk, VA.
Tennessee State University
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Tennessee State’s “Aristocrat of Bands” (A.O.B) is led by four drum majors known as the “Fantastic Four” and is joined by the Sophisticated Ladies dance team. TSU’s marching band became the first HBCU band to appear on national television during a NFL game in 1955. Additionally, in 1961, they performed for the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, making them the first HBCU band to perform at a presidential inauguration. Since then, only a few more HBCUs bands have had the honor of performing at a presidential parade. These universities include Southern University of Baton Rouge, TSU, and Florida A&M.
Florida A&M University
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100” also known as “The Most Imitated Marching Band in America” was organized under P.A. Van Weller. It originally began with only 16 members and has grown to over 440 members today. The Marching 100 has performed at the Super Bowl numerous times as well as the Summer Olympics and presidential inauguration parades. This band has been credited for 30 of their creative techniques that have been taught to high school and collegiate band programs.
Grambling State University
Location: Grambling, Louisiana
“The World Famed Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band” started in 1926 by Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones and is often referred to as “The Best in the Land”. During this time, the university lacked a music department yet still managed to come together as a unit to begin performing at concerts. After playing in front of small crowds across the United States, the band finally performed during the American Football Leagues championship game in San Diego. The Orchesis dancers accompany the band during games and shows.
Jackson State University
Location: Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson State University’s Marching Band known as the “Sonic Boom of the South” has had a huge amount of influence on band culture since its founding in the 1920s. This band includes over 200 members and is joined by the infamous Prancing J-Settes who began the style of dance known as J-setting. The Sonic Boom typically marches in military-style with their knees raised to a 90 degree angle.
Texas Southern University
Location: Houston, Texas
Texas Southern’s “Ocean of Soul” marching band was founded in 1969 and now has over 200 members. They are known for their extremely soulful sound, heavy beat, precision drills, and dance routines. This band has had many notable and televised performances including NFL games, World Series, and festivals. They are led by three drum majors and is actually the largest organization on campus.
Prairie View A&M University
Location: Prairie View, Texas
Prairie View A&M’s “Marching Storm” is known for their innovative drum routines and high-energy performances. Joining them in their performances are the Black Foxes (dancers) and the Twirling Thunder (color guards) making over 300 members in total. The marching band has made appearances in the Super Bowl, Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade, and on MTV.
South Carolina State University
Location: Orangeburg, South Carolina
South Carolina State’s “Marching 101” was founded in 1918 and consists of over 275 members. The Marching 101 prides themselves on never delivering anything less than perfection to their audiences and representing their profound educational institution. One of their main rivals is FAMU’s Marching 100 where the two schools usually have their own Battle of the Bands competition against one another. Another rivalry is the magnificent North Carolina A&T University “Blue & Gold Marching Machine.”