Candles, gleaming fountains and carpeted floors decorated the Al Lawson Multipurpose Gym Friday night as Florida A&M hosted the 2011 President’s Gala.
The event was held to kick off the anniversary of the 125th year of the university and honor “The Marching 100.”
Norma Solomon White, the first woman to play in the “100,” graced the stage. She and two other women are credited for paving the way for young women in the famous band today.
White said she agreed to attend FAMU after seeing the band as a child.
“It was the best decision I made to attend FAMU,” she said.
She reminisced about practicing long hours with the band until she “couldn’t see in the morning to couldn’t see at night.”
The Marching “100” was the featured entertainment and the honoree of the night. The band played some of its most familiar tunes, including “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Do Whatcha Wanna.”
Throughout the night, there were several short features on the history and development of the “100.” The band’s history dates back to 1892, with only 16 instruments under the leadership of P.A. Van Weller.
There was an extensive tribute to the William Foster era, and an in-depth look at the growth of the band.
Foster, director of bands emeritus and the creator of the Marching “100,” arrived at FAMU in 1946 and developed the program into one of the most recognized college marching bands in the world.
The band has received several accolades and the credit of implementing 30 techniques that would become standard in bands across the world.
Many former band members came to celebrate the FAMU “Marching 100” distinguished legacy. Ray Harry said he was a former band director at Howard University and a trumpet player for the “100.”
“Without this band, I could not be what I am,” said Harry, a 1968 FAMU graduate. “God bless everyone that went to FAMU.”
Mayor John Marks danced and sang along to almost every tune the band played.
“Okay I’m finished,” Mayor John Marks said while dancing along to a band selection. “A wonderful evening at FAMU. The gala homecoming weekend is such a special weekend in Tallahassee.”
As the night continued, current and former band members were adorned with gold medals for their service and commitment to the band and its future.
Michael Simmons, a 2006 music education graduate and former trumpet player, was one of the members who received a medal. Simmons, a member of the Tallahassee chapter of “The Marching 100” Alumni Association, said Julian White, Director of Bands, requested all alumni members attend. All former directors of the “100” were honored as well by White.
On her flute, Associate Professor and Director of Piccolos Dennine White serenaded her husband, White, by playing “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross.
During his speech, White thanked President James Ammons for always providing financial and moral support to make the “100.”
“Sometimes I think I am at my best when doing challenges,” White told Ammons and the audience.
“I am a little arrogant and cocky. It’s not because of what I am, but who I am with you.”