EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE: Charlton Singleton Shares A Story Of How One Song Affected Many

We’ve, recently, lost a giant in the field of music. Ms. Nancy Sue Wilson, a jazz singer whose career spanned over five decades, passed away on Thursday, December 13th 2018 at the age of 81. Ms. Wilson, who was notable for her single “How Glad I Am” and her version of the standard “Guess Who I Saw Today”, was remembered by several prominent celebrities and political  leaders… 

“She sang for us until the stars twinkled into the heavens. She marched for us. She spoke for us. We will always remember Grammy- winning songstress NancyWilson, a woman of immense dignity. RIP”

Rev. Jesse Jackson

“We’ve lost another legend and a shining example of beauty, class, grace and talent in the passing of Nancy Wilson! She made an indelible mark on me as she did with so many others! My heart goes out to her family, friends and fans all around the world!

Patti Labelle

“There are no words to describe how my heart aches at this news that my baby sister, my Piscean sister, Nancy has passed away. You were the light of every room you walked in. God bless you Nancy. I will miss you every day, but I will always cherish our times together.”

Quincy Jones

Ms Wilson has touched us all through her gift of music and has left the world a catalog of classics that has stood the test of time. However few may have heard her stirring rendition of a song that she performed only once and never recorded. The song, written by Benard Ighner, was entitled “Everything Must Change” Published in 1976 on a Quincy Jones album entitled Body Heat, the classic song’s lyrics explores the “change” that we, as human beings, experience by; going through trials in life, growing older, and eventually dying. In this song Bernard Ighner artfully explores the fragility of “change” in human life by highlighting the things that never change. 

Benard Ighner

“The young become the old, mysteries do unfold. ‘Cause that’s the way of time. Nothing and no one goes unchanged. There are not many things In life you can be sure of. Except, rain comes from the clouds, and sun lights up the sky, and humming birds do fly.”

Lyrics from “Everything Must Change” 

In 1985, another Jazz legend by the name of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley passed away. Cannonball was a Jazz Alto Saxophonist who gained popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s, during the bebop era of jazz. As a result, he worked with trumpeter Miles Davis on many of his albums during the late 50’s. He is most remembered for his 1966 crossover hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”. His younger brother was a jazz trumpeter by the name of Nat Adderley.


A Story of Interwoven stories…

Charlton Singleton – Musician, Composer, & Conductor shares a special story

“Nancy Wilson sang Everything Must Change, as a duet with Nat Adderley, at Cannonball’s funeral on March 26, 1985. It was on the campus of Florida A&M University (FAMU), being that Cannonball was a member of the FAMU music faculty at the time.

Lindsey Sarjeant, currently Chair of the Music Department at FAMU, attended Cannonball’s funeral services and served as a pallbearer. While attending an annual Gala in honor of his brother’s life (Mr. Lindsey Sarjeant’s brother was legendary band director Ronald J Sarjeant of South Carolina State University), Lindsey told the story of Nancy Wilson’s riveting performance of Everything Must Change at Cannonball’s funeral. 

Lindsey also shared the reverence and importance of the song’s lyrics to him and his brother and how whenever adversity occurred in their lives, they would always refer back to the lyrics of the song to see them through it. He stated that it became sort of a “go to” song that they shared, and would reflect on whenever life’s changes were presented…

Ronald & Lindsey Sarjeant

When Lindsey was talking about his relationship with his brother and the significance of the song, there were a few things that I started to recall about OUR experiences with Mr. Sarjeant that made a little more sense now… The subtle disposition of Sarj (goes with the style of the song), the power of Sarj (powerful lyrics), the chord changes (well…)

In honor of the Sarjeant Brothers, I arranged Everything Must Change for my jazz orchestra. It was premiered at a show that we did in October of 2018. During the performance, I shared my own story about how I first heard the song at SC State University during a jazz band rehearsal and how I recently became aware of the deeper meaning it had for my band director, Mr Ronald Sarjeant. 

At the Gala, Lindsey performed a solo piano version of Everything Must Change, so naturally I had to have my chart start off with solo piano as well!… The bonus for me was that Mrs. Sarjeant was at my show so she heard it.”

Charlton Singleton



Charlton Singleton is a 1994 graduate of South Carolina State University with a degree in music performance. He has traveled the world as a Jazz artist and has produced many albums and recordings throughout his career. He is currently conductor and artistic director of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, a 20-piece aggregation at the vanguard of jazz in South Carolina. He is a board member of The Jazz Artists of Charleston where he also serves as vice president.

What Makes A Band Even More Spectacular?… A Great Announcer!

Dr. William P Foster once said, “every great band needs a great announcer”.  I believe this is still true. Just as in the old days, having a great announcer is still the “glue” to a great show. The great bands have announcers whose voices, sayings, and patterns of delivery elevate the band’s performance. With the correct application of well timed words and phrases, announcers evoke certain emotions and reactions which can exceed the effect of instruments alone. The greatest announcers have created their own styles and approach. Their voices have become as identifiable as the look and sound of the bands whose shows they narrate.

However, too much of a good thing can also be bad… There are numerous examples of announcers destroying shows by either talking too much, displaying horrible timing, or incorrectly stating something like a song title or school name. Of these, the excessive talkers may be the worst. When the band is competing for the audience’s attention with someone screaming in a microphone, nobody wins.  

Sometimes what is deemed “acceptable” from announcers can be region specific. For instance, here in the South Western Atlantic Conference it may not be out of the norm to hear an announcer rapping or singing during certain parts of the band’s performance. On the other hand, Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference audiences may not find it unusual that their band announcers never show any type of excitement in their voices what so ever. I’ve come to appreciate aspects of both approaches but I do wonder why they are so different. I guess living in South Carolina and Georgia for most of my life, then being transplanted in Houston these last two years, has really exposed these types of regional differences. They range from music and clothes to marching band styles and smoked sausage (They don’t have Rogerwood Sausage here Y’all!)

However, in the world of college bands, the great announcers have found a way to stay true to their region specific likes and dislikes while still captivating audiences around the world. As I think back to some of the “legendary” marching band performances, a few voices from the past speak out to me and are forever attached to those performances…

Glenn “Horatio In Stereo” Walker is currently General Manager of BCU Radio and, formerly, the legendary voice of The Marching Wildcats 1978 – 2013

“Whenever you hear this voice… and whenever you see this band… remember… We are the undisputed heavyweights of black college marching bands… This is the only band in the world that’s guaranteed to show up and show out on any band… any day… any time… any where… and (Insert other band name) we’re about to show out on YOU. From the world’s most famous beach… allow me to introduce the premiere band of the new millennium… The cadillac of black college marching bands… These are The Marching Wildcats of Bethune Cookman University!” – Mr. Glenn Walker 

Dr. Jimmy James, Former Chair of the Department of Music, Jackson State University and legendary voice of The Sonic Boom of The South 1966 – 2009

“Ladies and gentlemen!… Fine tune your sensory apparatus!… For the upmost and the miraculous! The mirthful, the mind boggling!… The most delightful sights and sounds available to any audience!… any time!… any where!… Why its the apex of excellence!… The epitome of ostentatious variety!… A superb ensemble representing the age of electronic and computerized musical explosions! Observe the fullness, the eccentricity, and aggressive showmanship as Jackson State University proudly presents… The quintessence of contemporary sounds and maneuvers, the summa cum laude of bands!… The Sonic Boom Of The South!” – Dr. Jimmy James

Joe Bullard, host of Tallahassee’s  The Joe Bullard Show on FM 96.1JAMZ and legendary voice of The Marching 100 1975 – present

“And now… your wait… is over… From the highest of 7 hills in Tallahassee, the capital of Florida… What has become known as “America’s Band”… The most imitated band… in the world… Please welcome the incomparable… the magnificent… The Florida A&M University Marching Band!… But first… The sound.” – Mr. Joe Bullard

For so many years these men have shaped and personified the sound of college marching bands. It’s amazing when I think about the fact that they have announced for bands much longer than many programs have held directors. Their voices have become synonymous with the culture surrounding the bands whose shows they’ve narrated. These men, and a few others, defined the role of the band announcer and molded the cast for generations to follow.  For that and all they’ve done for their perspective programs, we owe them a toast of gratitude.  


In 2001 Dr. William P. Foster was quoted in his book, The Man Behind The Baton, saying… “Mr (Joe) Bullard began serving as an announcer during his junior year (1974) at Florida A&M University. He has continued to furnish color to the script of the pregame and halftime shows on and off campus for more than three decades. During this time, Mr. Bullard has only missed a few performances. I am thankful to him for his excellence as the announcer for the world famous FAMU Marching “100” Band. One very important thing he has taught us is that a world-famous band also needs a world-famous announcer.” 

IT’S GOING DOWN… IN THE STANDS!!: Has Halftime Taken A Backseat To The Gym Battle, Zero Quarter, And The 5th?

Is it me or has it gotten more difficult to find halftime footage of college bands on the internet? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there is no footage available. With all the media teams and band media sites on the net, there is more halftime footage of bands available now than ever in the history of college bands. So… what gives?

If you know anything about algorithms, tags, and search engine results then you know that what ever is typed or searched the most will appear first when someone searches for something. So if I search for NCA&T Marching Band 2018 the search engine will pull the most popular media with those keywords. Since we are nearing the end of the “marching season” shouldn’t there be halfime performances “a- plenty”? Well maybe not … so we found.

We visited the popular media platform Youtube to view it’s search engine results for “(School Name) Marching Band 2018” for 5 Popular bands: Florida A&M, Jackson State, Miles College, NCA&T, and Southern. We totaled the number of halftime shows that were pulled from a small sample, the first 20 clips of each band’s search results. The “results” were surprising.


So overall it appeared that stands footage was more popular than field footage. More youtube viewers click on the stands and BOTB footage from these bands than their halftime clips. This is interesting… Being someone who grew up in the “band tape” era when almost every band tape was of a halftime performance, I didn’t notice this shift in preference until now and it surprised me.

I was not surprised to see more fans appear to prefer FAMU on the field than in the stands compared to other bands. However, I was surprised to see NCA&T’s results considering the popularity of their field shows. Maybe their results were skewed due to a recent BOTB with NSU which was watched by many… But then that still means viewers found the BOTB more interesting than both bands’ halftimes which brings me to the original point. Why is this happening?

Some say it’s because bands are no longer innovating at halftime (except NCA&T… this show is amazing!).

The battle for the crowd’s attention and admiration used to happen at halftime with well designed shows that provided an audience with surprises and thrills as each band tried to “one up” the other. Now the thrill seems to come from figuring out which bands can play the latest songs the loudest. Is this because performances have become “too traditional” in nature? I mean when every audience member knows the three parts of your show and how (and when) you usually execute them, how thrilling can the performance actually be? In those cases it makes sense that the viewers would be more entertained by the heated exchange in the stands. I remember when I was in school we enjoyed performing for other crowds over our home crowd because the reception was always bigger in front of a different audience. Thinking back…. maybe the difference was that our crowd had seen what we do a thousand times and it was always new to others. Maybe we should have innovated at home a bit’ more?

On the other hand, these storied programs still draw huge crowds at performances like The Honda Battle of the Bands and The Queen City Battle of the bands which highlight field show performances.  So maybe I’m just bugging and everything just seems a little “off” this year due to both of those events being canceled? I don’t know… I’m just noticing less halftime footage in feeds and more zero quarter, 5th quarter, stand battles, and hell… even marching in/out videos. Am I alone?

October, October… It’s Almost Over.

Imagine you’re the leader of a small organization of about 80 to 100 people and you are tasked with the creation and development of a unique presentation that will be judged by a small panel of “experts”. These experts have their own likes and dislikes as it relates to these presentations (which won’t be shared with you until after you’ve presented) and they will be judging you based on those preferences.

Your presentation will be given a rating of “Good” (printed on a bumper sticker…), “Excellent” (you almost kept me awake, congratulations!), or “Superior” (you’ve done well my perfect child of God…). To make it all the more “competitive”, some of your colleagues will be given more people and greater resources to help them do better than you. Based upon how well you and your colleagues do with your presentations, you will then be ranked from best to worst. This will all take place in front of a crowd of no less than 300 people. Fair?… Great.

This scenario, I admit, may be a lil’ facetious, but it is actually a very accurate description of your local high school marching band’s weekend activities during the month of October. What starts around the last weekend in September and ends around the first weekend in November is what we bandheads call Competition Season where every weekend is taken over by all day band activities (sprinkled with a college homecoming or two) on Saturdays.

This year, as in years past, as the weekly competition results start to invade timelines, I’m starting to see a familiar villain raise his/her head… pic1The Shafted Band Director. This individual, after working hard all summer, may be disappointed with the results and opinions of the judges as it relates to their competition show and resort to social media to stress this frustration. Sometimes it’s the judges, sometimes it’s the other bands, sometimes it’s the event itself that is on the receiving end of this director’s sharp criticism. This is a natural reaction and one that I can definitely understand. Creating these shows every year is a very personal activity. Your own thoughts, musicality, and creativity are all on display to be judged by others. When results don’t turn out as intended it can sometimes feel like an affront to you personally. However nothing can be further from the truth.

judge-contestJudges at these events have score sheets in front of them which they use as a measure when assessing your performance. The adjudication is based on how well you satisfy the requirements of each caption on the score sheet, not necessarily how great of a show you’ve presented. Take for example the marching caption… If you are being judged on knee lift/glide step, spacing, horn angles, military bearing, etc… You will score better if you focus on uniformity in the look as opposed to marching the “greatest drill ever created”. Many times simple precision drills score better when the high difficulty drills are not executed properly.

Then there’s the opinionated aspect of the entire thing. In each caption it’s really one person’s opinion that makes the difference. I’ve had a judge to comment on the fact that he loved our uniforms. I’ve had another judge say our Auxiliary performed with class and grace. Both of these comments are opinions that could be measurable on the score sheets. Did those comments help us to score higher in those captions? Did another band score lower? I’m sure both things are true. But when ever I was on the losing end of the stick, having the ability to accept, and respect, the judges comments and scores taught me alot about humility. As I look back, I needed those early failures in order to grow into the educator I’m still becoming. And though we won a lot of times, it was more important for my students to learn how to react when we lost.

20131005_220102To my fiery, young band directors who are in the heat of the battle every weekend trying to carve out a reputation for yourselves and wanting your creativity to be respected… I say stay humble and keep working. Hard work truly pays off and navigating a couple of bumps on the road to success is a very crucial part of growth. After 18 years of directing bands, the most important thing I’ve learned about assessments and being adjudicated is… it’s not about being the best. It’s about becoming better. Happy October! 🙂


This entry is a step away from my usual articles on music education and marching bands however I believe saving money is worth the deviation so bear with me. 🙂

Though I currently reside in TX, I’m actually a born and raised South Carolinian. Because of this, some may say cutting my cable usage on the very weekend that my home state is being pummeled by Hurricane Florence is probably a bad idea. I mean how am I going to get the live storm updates and track the hurricane as it effects the lives of my mother, father, sisters, and extended family and friends? Well this article is going to share with you exactly how I did that and the cost savings I am looking forward to as I take this step away from the norm, much like I did when I did not activate a home phone line upon moving into our current residence. But first, the problem…



This is my current cable bill. I pay a $50 charge for internet services so if you subtract that charge, I pay a total of $139.90 for Cable services that includes no premium channels, just two cable boxes (one in the den and one in a bed room). These prices are ridiculous in my opinion. I mean I only watch one news station and “Law And Order” on actual TV. Everything else is on Netflix so why must I pay these abhorrent prices? Don’t get me wrong, I have no gripes with the Xfinity experience. Talking to the remote to change channels and look up movies on Netflix is dope… But not $130 dope.

In a recent conversation with my brother, somehow this bill came up and he mentioned that he hasn’t used cable in over two years. So of course I was like… uhh… what? He explained how he had “cut the chord” years ago and has actually experienced better service than what he was getting with a cable or satellite dish company.

Brother man with the master plan…

He now gets ALL the premium channels, the NFL football package, over 1,000 channels, and access to thousands of movies. All that for as low as $15.99 per month.

This all peeked my interest of course. How is that possible, I asked, when I pay way more and only get basic cable. He talked me through all of the technology jargon on how he did it. I was there for it all because  I’m such a tech head, but I’m not going to bore you with the details. What he basically said was all I needed was just three things to make the switch…

THE 3 PART SOLUTION – Hardware, VPN Service, & Software

Though there are cheaper options for Android TV, the Nvidia Shield is the most advanced (and most expensive) option selling for $179.99 at best buy but a few dollars cheaper on Amazon.

Acquiring an Android TV Box is the first step toward cutting the cord. There are many manufacturers of these boxes and the primary difference in them is processing speed, onboard memory, and resolution (high end units produce content as high as 4k). They range in price from $30 bucks to as high as $180. Just remember, a mid range to high end device is recommended to reduce buffering and to ensure a great experience. Start here for the best description of hardware choices.

The second thing he recommended was a good VPN service so your browsing and streaming is protected. Really, whether you are cutting the cord or not, everyone should be using a VPN these days. If you have a banking app on your phone, you ever send private information via email or text, you bank online on your PC, tablet, or laptop… then you need a VPN. It protects information that is sent from up to 5 of your devices (PC, Laptop,TV, tablet, phone) so that no one can see what you send and receive without your permission. This article is a good place to start to get a good one for a great price. I use Private Internet Access for just $6.95 per month (Paying month to month). Its even cheaper at $3.33 per month if you pay for the entire year upfront.

The last step in having a great experience with Android TV is getting the right software downloaded and there are many you tubers and vloggers out there that have done complete walk-throughs on setting up your Android TV Box. I subscribe to a number of them. Start here for a step by step walk-through of setting up a device.

MY RESULTS – Thursday to Sunday Without Cable

Actual image on Nvidia user interface on my TV.

So, Thursday of last week I decided to give it a go. I had purchased the Nvidia Shield box the weekend before, but was skeptical of going without cable. However my next month’s bill arriving in the mail gave me that extra push I needed. I unplugged my cable box from my TV and plugged in the Nvidia… and surprisingly I haven’t hooked the cable back up since.

The first thing I did was turn on my VPN service. Afterwards I went through the steps recommended by a You-tuber in his Setting up the Nvidia Box Walk Through. After about 45 mins I was up and running. My brother suggested a couple of apps he uses to stream live TV with a $15 per month subscription (There are many) and before I knew it, I was watching live TV in beautiful 1080p quality. I was following the hurricane events live and checking in on my family in SC. The Weather Channel, CNN… every channel was at my disposal. Even premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, TMC, etc… I also had access to Video On Demand Services. My wife was able to pull up entire seasons and choose episodes from premium and basic channel shows. All this for $15 per month and $6.99 for the VPN which totals to $22 per month compared to $139.90 that I am currently paying for cable. I am sold.

Actual image from my television interface showing the different countries available and my “favorites” list as I flip through channels. CNN Hurricane coverage in the background.

So tomorrow I will be taking my cable box back to Xfinity and dropping my cable TV service. The services offered with cable do not measure up to the services of Android TV when comparing pricing. The cable company pricing system is archaic and is not representative of today’s programming and options. So until they do better, I’m officially a cord cutter.

Ok, back to the bands!…

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.

Check out Block Us Up! weekly for the best content covering marching bands from across the nation!

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

MARCHING ORDERS: When “Netflix And Chill” Turns Into A Bandhead Review


“I actually enjoyed this docuseries! It was professionally done and right on par with some of my favorite netflix produced documentaries.” – Jennifer Stackhouse

Ernest & Jennifer Stackhouse

Here it is folks, a general review of Marching Orders, a docuseries that followed the Bethune Cookman Marching Band as it prepared for its first performance (The Queen City Battle Of The Bands) of the 2016 marching season. Marching Orders was produced in the reality show format complete with sub-stories that tugged on heart strings and monologues that provided drama and laughs while connecting the audience to 5 main characters; Dr. Donovan Wells (Band Director),  Daina (Sophisticats Captain), Ebonee (14K Dancers Co-Captain), Tweet (14k Freshman member), and Markus (Mellophone Section Leader).


The drama is revealed from the very start as several of the 14K Dancers, even veteran members, are not selected in band camp auditions. One veteran member was physically sick to the stomach which resulted in several audition room walkouts. My wife (Jen) thought the veteran member eliminated herself by walking out. She thought the young lady should have said something if she didn’t feel well. I agreed… The drama continued as the Sophisticat Flag Corp auditions are held and some freshmen team members were selected, then denied due to their weight. This was a very emotional scene as girls were moved to tears and even Dr. Wells became visibly upset about having to  make that decision… A definite “dust in the eye” moment.

Dr. Wells agonizes over the decision to remove freshmen Sophisticat members due to uniform restrictions

Body image was a constant discussion topic amongst some of the girls. A 14k Freshman member, “Tweet”, was told to lose weight or risk removal as well. Many of the 14k dancers remained on edge up until the uniform fitting. If their uniform was not “flattering” to their figure by performance time, they could risk being sidelined. Jen and I were both moved by the subject matter this portion of the film dealt with.20180519_122508  We have two daughters and the youngest will likely end up in some college’s dance studio. We both, having marched on an HBCU band together, understand the effect that having a limited budget may have on properly outfitting teams. However, as parents, we could not help but to imagine our young dancer in this situation and wonder what effect being turned away, based solely on her body image, would have on her self confidence and personal development.

Speaking of parenting, the film included a very riveting story about a student, Markus (mellophone section leader), who hadn’t seen his mother in over 10 years! This sub-story elicited many layers of emotions and came across powerfully on screen. I think most viewers were just as nervous as Markus in anticipation of his mom’s visit. Lol! Kudos to the editor… the buildup to that day was artfully done. My wife and I quietly celebrated their reunion but would have paid her plane ticket to Charlotte so she could see her son leading the BCU Mellophones! It was a great, “feel good”, story nonetheless.

This was a documentary that was produced like a reality TV show so, of course, there was no shortage of drama filled scenes. One source of drama was the situation surrounding Daina (Sophisticats Captain) and her leadership style. Some have argued that she was a little rough in her approach. Some say she was fine and the freshman, she was addressing, just had an attitude. I think her approach was perfectly aligned with the band director’s approach. As a leader she is supposed to be an extension of the band director and I think she accomplished that. I believe she was results driven but a caring leader. She showed how much she cared for her team when she spoke up for the freshmen in the meeting with Dr. Wells and was there crying with them when they were told they could no longer participate. I would argue that her approach is that of “tough love”.

freshmen flags.PNG
Daina, consoles freshmen members who were told they could not participate

We enjoyed this film and was left wanting more, which is a good thing! If there was one thing we learned about the BCU marching band, from viewing this documentary, it was that being a Marching Wildcat is about being competitive! That point was made over and over in situations throughout the entire documentary. The daily competition that exists among each member is what, I believe, makes BCU one of the best bands in the nation. Seeing band members sidelined, who would be on the field in lesser programs, speaks to the quality that Dr Wells’ system produces.

Go ahead and check this out… you will enjoy it!


Marching Orders

(2018) Docuseries, Rated TV-14

Storyline (Plot)

Regarded as the nations best, Bethune-Cookman University’s marching band always has a lot at stake. In the Stage 13 Original MARCHING ORDERS, meet the incoming class trying to keep the legacy alive and the seniors who make sure they do. Led by band director Donovan Wells, the Wildcats take it to the field every performance, risking college scholarships and national fame every time.


WHO’S THE KING OF R&B?!: 5 Ballads Finessed… But Who’s The Best?

There’s nothing I like to hear more than a band playing the skin off of a good ballad. I selected some of my favs from around the web and listed them here in alphabetical order. Check out the clips and let us know what you think by rating each performance (0 to 5 stars) based on what sounds good to you. If you need help deciding… compare each band’s over all musicality, technique, interpretation, execution, and the arrangement (how well the song is written). It’s all fun! Have at it!






Special thanks to our media hosts: BandTube HD Kelvin Parker BGMM Media Marching Sport Killa Kev Productions

Feel free to comment below!

BAND STORIES: What Lead You To Join A College Band?

The year was 1993. I was an 11th grade band student at Georgetown High School in Georgetown, South Carolina (small town in between Myrtle Beach and Charleston) and we were preparing to compete in a mid october band competition in Orangeburg, S.C. Upon arriving at the competition, many of my band mates were buzzing with excitement because, unlike me, they knew we were to be treated to an exhibition performance by S.C. State University’s Marching 101 at the conclusion of the event. During these days The Marching 101 was God-like in the state of South Carolina. Me, being a kid from the PJ’s and all, I’d never seen a college band live at that point in my life, though I had watched hours upon hours of video tapes. This of course was well before Youtube, Facebook, and basically the internet. Lol

So here we were at the competition and we had just finished our performance as four to five charter buses rolled up behind the stadium. All the bands in the audience instantly let out a huge cheer of excitement. My band made our way to the parking lot to put our instruments and equipment on the bus then headed back to the stadium to get seated for the main event! On our way back to the stadium I noticed The Marching 101’s tuba players unloading and assembling their instruments so I decided to walk over to introduce myself as a tuba player. I don’t recall the student’s name, but I remember being impressed that he was friendly and very accomodating with, what I’m sure were, very annoying questions from a crew of lil’ high schoolers. He willingly entertained our questions until our director instructed us to return to the stadium.

When the 101 entered the field I was simply amazed. Every note the band played was mesmerizing. The sound was like that of a well tuned orchestra that had studied with jazz musicians.  Every note the tubas played, I could feel them resonating up through the bleachers and into my chest. I had never heard tubas like that before. I was blown away! Then they played the song that changed my life forever… “One Last Cry” by Brian Mcknight. The arrangement was just beautiful. The entire audience was standing throughout their performance, much like a party scene, but on this particular song people were swaying back and forth in complete silence. It was a magical moment. One of the few times I’ve gotten goosebumps from a marching band arrangement. I was sold. I knew at that moment I was going to SC State University, I was going to be a band director, and I was going to strive to have a band that sounded like that one day.

Not the best quality, but this is the only copy of the ’93 Marching 101 playing this song I can find. Imagine being a junior in highschool and hearing this selection live in a small HS stadium…. Simply breathtaking.

So what’s your story? What was the moment you knew you were going to a particular university?

Share your story in the comments below!






This is our seventh installment of “Apps That Make Band Life Easier“. The response to our previous write ups has been overwhelming! Thanks for the support and we are delighted that the information posted has been useful to so many. If you missed those articles they will be linked below.

note trainerNote Trainer Pro ($3.99 in the App Store for iOS devices only): Note Trainer is designed to improve melodic dictation and sight – reading. It is aimed at musicians, music students on all levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced), and basically anyone interested in strengthening their ability to read music. It includes exercises reading musical notes and chords.

review 1

Note Trainer is a fun way to learn how to read notes and chords. It allows the user to start at whatever level they feel comfortable then gradually increases the difficulty as their reading ability improves.

The app consists of over 30 preloaded exercises but is also fully customizable to expand to the limits of your imagination. With this app practice becomes fun so directors should get less excuses and more results.


logo1My Little Rhythm ($2.99 in the App Store for iOS devices only): My little rhythm is a fun lil app for younger students but has proven to be entertaining for all ages. A metronome clicks in the background as the user taps the screen to the rhythm that is shown. The difficulty can be increased or decreased by changing the time signature and the tempo.

For every correct rhythm read a star or a smiley face appears on the screen to recognize the achievement. When the user reaches the end of the measure, having played correct rhythms, a “point” is given.


EEEssential Elements Interactive (free) – This app is the mobile companion for Essential Elements Interactive. It is a step towards what music study will be like in the future. It enables the user to hear a recording of the exercises from the method book to practice with. It also has the ability to provide an accompaniment utilizing instruments of different styles and periods. The following features are listed on the site:


EEi users will be able to:

• Practice their instruments with multiple audio accompaniment tracks
• Record themselves via their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
• Upload and share recordings via the EEi cloud
• Use tempo control, slowing the audio speed for practice
• View instructional videos
• Access supplemental handouts and worksheets
• View and share assignments and materials from teacher to student
• And much more…

This is how I imagined teaching band in the future to be…


%d bloggers like this: