The rousing words of Joe Bullard, the voice of the Florida A&M Marching “100,” resounded throughout the Band Rehearsal Hall on Saturday.
“The wait is over,” he said. “The moment you’ve been waiting for all day.”
A drum cadence accompanied by cheers and applause bounced off the acoustic panels. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Bullard continued, “the Florida A&M University marching band!”
Every eye in the room was fixated on more than 30 high-stepping musicians donning orange Marching “100” T-shirts and warm-up pants, their instruments bopping with every shuffle like animated puppets. Cameras flashed and prospective band members looked on in admiration as the Marching “100” commanded the room with its rendition of the “20th Century Fox Fanfare” and “The Florida Song.”
This performance marked the start of pre-drill orientation for returning members and more than 190 band hopefuls and their parents.
Interim President Larry Robinson received a standing ovation as he approached the lectern to thank the parents for sending their children to FAMU to play in the band. The Marching “100” was reinstated in June after a 19-month suspension that followed the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011.
“What happened to us sent out a strong signal to the world about the dangers and ultimate tragedies of hazing,” Robinson said. “What we will do now … is send out an equally strong signal about how we, as a collective body, brought hazing to its knees.”
Twyler Ferguson, a former band member whose child is an incoming freshman, said the policies Robinson put in place gave her the confidence to allow her son to come to FAMU.
“It’s unfortunate what happened in 2011, and I’m glad that Dr. Robinson is moving the school forward,” she said.
Measures FAMU has taken to combat hazing include creating a website that students can use to report hazing, stophazingatfamu.com, hiring Special Assistant to the President for Anti-Hazing Bryan Smith and revising university anti-hazing policies and procedures.
The university has also hired Deirdre McRoy, the music compliance officer, to ensure that all music department ensembles meet eligibility requirements established by the new band policy in order to perform. Those requirements are as follows:
- Students must be enrolled full time at FAMU.
- Students must maintain at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA and be working to complete 12 credit hours at all times during a semester.
- Students on scholarship must maintain no lower than a 2.5 GPA and receive no I, W or F grades.
- Students must have gained 24 credit hours within the past school year.
- Students cannot participate more than four fall semesters in the Marching “100.”
The policy also states that students are not allowed to have practice on or off campus without supervision by music department officials, such as Sylvester Young, director of marching and pep bands, and Shelby Chipman, associate director of bands.
McRoy said she will run an enrollment report each week to make sure students are complying.
“If we work together and have a common understanding and govern ourselves accordingly, this is going to be a great year for the Marching ‘100’ and it’s going to be a great year for FAMU.”
Tommy Mitchell, president of the FAMU National Alumni Association, said the alumni expect the best from the band this year.
“Over 70,000 Rattlers are just absolutely excited and ecstatic about bringing back the best band in the world,” he said. “Football isn’t the same without the Marching ‘100,’ so they can’t wait.”
But fans may have to wait longer than they expect. Despite rumors that the band will perform Sept. 1 at the Rattlers’ season-opener in Orlando, Young said no performance dates have been confirmed.
“Right now it’s still too early to make any promises,” Young said.
However, a press conference to release those dates is scheduled for Aug. 15.