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Making The Band: How Tradition And Awe Go Into Making HBCU’s Biggest Attraction

What goes into making an illustrious HBCU marching band is further detailed by Prairie View's own director of bands, Timmey Zachery.

From Drum Line to Battle of the Bands, marching bands have emerged as pillars of the HBCU experience, documented through various forms of media.

Marketplace explored the history and awe behind the illustrious marching bands of various HBCUs. The Marching Storm at Prairie View A&M in Texas and Sonic Boom of the South at Mississippi’s Jackson State University are notable bands that have developed their own fanbase, many becoming believers after witnessing a halftime show for the first time.

“For every first-time viewer of [a historically Black college or university] band that I’ve gotten to speak with, I’d say 99 out of 100 of them were in absolute awe,” said Timmey Zachery, director of bands at Prairie View. “They had no idea that what we were able to do could be done.

The band culture found at HBCUs dates back to the 1940s, engaging with the crowd through their specific style and synchronized movement. These marching bands differentiate themselves from other school in this way, and also by including more popular songs of the moment to better interact with attendees.

Performers and their conductors are united in a shared mission to showcase their skills as one band and one sound. Zachery states that performing in such unity with a large group is a feat in itself,

“Being synchronized with 360 people and have them turn on a dime in 10 seconds and go a different direction together, that says something about those individuals. It says something about that institution.”

Many students with a background in music often dream of being part of these prized groups, which is part of the allure for Black scholars to attend HBCUs. Despite the small numbers and lesser funding, as only 14 bands are part of Prairie View’s conference, these marching bands are still known for their esteemed performances. They continue to display their creativity and determination even when lacking necessary resources.

“I’d like for people to use that exposure to expose the fact that we don’t have all the resources that we need in order to do this. We just make it happen,” explains Zachery. “To be in a space where not only are you recognizing our talent, but you’re supporting it, I think that would be an ideal space for us.”

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