2018 MARCHING SEASON – WEEK ONE: It’s Still Early… But Laawd!

As we dive into this week, we need to keep in mind that it’s too early to “rate” or “rank” a band based on its current performance level. One reason is some bands practiced for 3-4 weeks on this first show so it’s very polished, but that band will not have 3-4 weeks of uninterrupted practice time throughout the season so the current performance results are somewhat skewed and sometimes drop considerably as the year progresses. Another reason is some bands come back to school with only a week or so of practice time before their first performance so that first performance is not an adequate measure of the daily work that will be put in as the season progresses… It’s really a mixed bag. So in this article I’d like to focus your attention on what the bands were able to do well without ranking or declaring winners or losers. We will have plenty of time for that as the season progresses.

As we look at each performance, you will notice some bands grew in size and sound while others shed a few pounds. Fresh off the fame of their Netflix series Marching Orders, The Bethune Cookman University Marching Wildcats continues to be one of the largest and most consistent HBCU bands in history, and this weekend’s performance certainly lived up to the hype! Stretching from the 15 to the 15 yard line on both sides, “The Pride” executed a show that lived up to its reputation as precision personified.

TSU is consistently ranked near the top on every “best band” list and this weekend’s showing did not disappoint. I Enjoyed their rendition of Jodeci’s “Come And Talk To Me”. A 90’s classic is a winner everytime.


In Virginia there are two band programs with reputations and histories bigger than that of many others. The VSU Trojans and the NSU Spartans met up in the Labor Day Classic and both bands seemed to be showing signs of climbing back up to their traditional statuses of sitting amongst the top in their respective conferences. It should be very exciting to watch as the year progresses… What wasn’t so exciting to watch was the meighleigh that occured between a VSU percussionist and the NSU Spartan Guard. It’s unfortunate that all the hard work and progress of these students got somewhat overshadowed by the acts of a few. Despite this incident both bands proved that they are both class acts and the battle continued in a non confrontational manner. Watch out for both of these programs this year!


The MEAC SWAC Challenge hosted NCCU vs PVA&M. This game could have been labeled the David vs Goliath Battle considering the size difference of each band (Prairie View’s 44 trumpets vs Central’s 10 for example). However, both bands seemed to have put in the necessary work this summer. The Sound Machine and The Storm presented solid shows and an exciting 5th quarter to the audience’s delight. I enjoyed PV’s “Knockin’ The Boots” another fav of mine from the 90’s. Ok, I guess I’m biased for 90’s jams but it was a great 5th quarter selection nonetheless. Rarely do we see bands this polished on week one. Kudos to the students and staff of both institutions.

Speaking of polished on week one, I think my surprise favorite battle of the weekend was  Alabama A&M vs Miles College! Honestly, I was not expecting much here. I thought it would turn into the typical “We’re louder than yall” type of meet up. To my great surprise these bands were well rehearsed and over prepared for a week one performance! I am a fan of Alabama A&M arrangements and the writing, and execution, was definitely on point this weekend. “Object Of My Desire” is a new fav! Miles showed a few “week one” type mistakes in their drill execution but the sound was DEFINITELY there. On a side note Miles has 27 Sousaphones! Who has more than that? I enjoyed the drill selection “That Girl” and “The Thong Song” in the 5th. Speaking of the 5th, A&M’s “Across 110th Street” was a beast of a selection. I recommend the 5th footage for anyone with 30 mins to kill, but here are the halftime performances.

Down in Tallahassee the Wildcats of Fort Valley State University paid a visit to the Rattlers for what is becoming a yearly matchup. As a former Middle-Georgia resident, I have to say it was good to see Fort Valley sporting some healthy numbers and new equipment. Seems as if the program is being properly supported again, which is great.

FVSU 2016
FVSU 2018

This year The Marching 100 will perform in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California and from the looks of it, they are well on their way to being prepared to represent “the culture” properly. The highlight of the day was The Marching 100’s rendition of Mint Condition’s “Pretty Brown Eyes”, another 90’s classic! 🙂

Southern University traveled to Texas Christian University to kick off it’s Marching Season with a solid performance from top to bottom. All eyes were on the Jukebox as it is currently under new leadership. The new director, Mr. Kedrick Taylor fielded a solid performance to get the jukebox rolling, however there was some bandhead controversy surrounding Southern University’s first Drill of the year which looked, suspiciously, exactly like JSU’s drill from a few years ago… and quite frankly like 100’s of other bands’ drills since the 60’s… It’s because the drills are not unique to any HBCU and if we wanted to get technical, we could say most HBCU bands utilize drills from the books of Bill Moffit and William P Foster, so they do not belong to any particular band… which I explained here.

As most bands are just climbing out of pre-drill and some have still yet to play their first games, the 2018 marching season has been officially “kicked off”. To say it was an eventful start would be an understatement! If this week is any indication of the season we are about to embark upon, then we are certainly in for a great year! Glad you’re along for the ride.

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Special thanks to media providers: Showtime Web, Bandtube HD, hhorns2002 and Marching Storm Media

Published by Ernest Stackhouse

-Music Educator -Marching Band Show Design -Musical Arranger -Adjudicator -Fine Arts Administrator -Band Director -Writer

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