The incomparable Marching 100 has done it again. Despite the coronavirus pandemic causing many universities to cancel their annual homecoming festivities, including FAMU, YouTube has invited the Marching 100 to participate in itsvirtual “HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me On The Yard” show.
Homecoming has a deep cultural significance at historically Black colleges and universities, so the cancellation of FAMU’s 2020 homecoming disappointed the thousands of students attending the university. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of HBCU students can experience the magic of homecoming through the live-streamed show, which will be hosted by rapper 2 Chainz and social media influencer La La Anthony.
“HBCU homecomings are an integral slice of Black culture,” said Shawn Gee, executive producer and president of Live Nation Urban to The Source Magazine. “It is my honor to work with YouTube Originals and my friends at Jesse Collins Entertainment to bring this virtual celebration together to celebrate what is a cultural pillar of the Black community.”
“The high profile events bring a lot of excitement to our program because we get to show off and show out for FAMU and The Marching “100” legacy,” said former Marching 100 drum major Nehemia Fields.
The Marching 100 has been an integral part of FAMU’s culture since its inception in 1946 and the band is no stranger to high-profile events.
“For the last 70 plus years, [the Marching 100 has] performed [in] countless Super Bowls [and in] performances with celebrities like Prince. Even our alumni — long after they served their time in the Marching 100 — are still asked to perform with Beyonce,” said Moises Martinez, the current head drum major for the Marching 100. “The Marching 100 has a rich, rich history and its legacy is what keeps us going forward as we continue to build on that legacy.”
Martinez maintains that despite the change in scenery from Bragg Stadium to national platforms like YouTube and BET, the Marching 100 prepares like it would for any performance.
“The band is preparing for the show like any other time; the only difference is now, we are being more cautious of Covid[-19] restrictions. [The band is] making sure that everybody is socially distanced, [using] masks .. when not playing, [getting] same-week testing done whenever we have those performances where other people are coming in… [and] keeping that distance at a minimum of six feet.”
“Basically, the band prepares just how we normally do for practices. When we’re in front of the cameras, there’s nothing different,” he added.
Just as marching bands have a cultural significance to HBCUs, so do their leaders. Martinez spoke of his personal preparation to lead the Marching 100 for the upcoming virtual show.
“I currently serve as the head drum major for this year for the band and it’s an amazing opportunity. I’m lucky to have this position and I prepared for this moment through [training last year] and learning as a drum major for this head spot. There’s a lot that happens [and] that goes on [within the] mechanics of the marching band, but it’s a part of the process. The real teacher is experience; experience being in the band [is the only thing that can] help you lead the band.”
Fields, who was a drum major during the Marching 100’s victory in the “Hot” Battle of the Bands competition hosted by rappers Young Thug and Gunna earlier this year, elaborated on the band’s preparation for high-profile events.
“For these events, the creative minds in our band brainstorm ideas and bring them to the show-planning and dance routine committee meetings. Last year when we won the HBCU Hot Challenge, I was the Head of the Show-Planning and Dance Routine committees. On the day of our first official full band pre-drill meeting last August, I listened to the song and that same night I submitted it to one of our band staff members, Dr. Nicholas Thomas, so he could arrange the song for us to play.”
“I had no idea the challenge would come about, but once it did the band already knew the music,” Fields continued. “At that point, all we had to do in the committees was come up with the choreography and execution plan to teach the full band. Our media team really brought our vision to life with their videography and editing skills.”