The last sight of the Florida A&M Marching “100” on the gridiron was at the Florida Classic on Nov. 19, 2011, as it charged off the field in 15 rows comprising about 20 musicians each, a marching formation that spanned about 70 yards across.
According to Shaylor James, assistant director of bands and director of percussion, that band included more than 300 members.
Sunday, at halftime of FAMU’s season-opener in Orlando against Mississippi Valley State University, the famed band will put on its first big performance in almost two years. But this time, the Marching “100,” which was reinstated in June after a 19-month suspension that followed the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion, will consist of only 146 members.
However, Deirdre McRoy, the band’s compliance officer, said she expects the number of students to increase before FAMU’s first home football game on Sept. 7 as more students meet the band’s eligibility requirements.
“For the first home game, I’m hoping that we at least get up to 175; 200,” she said.
Michael Howard, a second-year business administration student from Washington, said he does not think the size of the band will matter.
“I don’t really think that the number of performers would affect their performance,” Howard said. “I feel like it’s all about the dedication … and the quality of the small amount they have now.”
But size is not the only factor that could work against the Marching “100.” James also said that first-time members outnumber veterans this year.
“This band is really about 80 percent new members,” said James, who has an entirely new bass drum and tenor drum section. “Even some of the upperclassmen, they only marched one season before the incident happened.”
With so many new members performing for the first time together in front of thousands, LeArtrice Blatch, a senior psychology student from Rockledge, Fla., does not think the performance will be up to par.
“I don’t think it will be as great,” she said. “But nonetheless, I think it will be great in and of itself that we actually can come back from such a situation that we actually have people that want to join.”
Band members, on the other hand, seem to be confident that the young band will maintain the Marching “100’s” tradition of excellence.
Calvin Long II, a first-year music student in the Marching “100,” said although though they are a new band, he believes they will be great when they take the field Sunday.
“With all the practicing that we’ve been doing, all the hard work and everything, I really feel like at the end of the day, we’re going to do what we have to do,” Long said. “We’re going to put out our best.”
Another band member, Xavier Faust, who is a second-year architecture student from Atlanta, said he is in high spirits about Sunday’s performance.
“It’s going to be explosive!” he said.
Kickoff for the Rattlers’ season-opener, the MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, is at 11:45 a.m. at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.