Excitement and anticipation loomed the air of the Tallahassee Regional Airport Thursday night.
Fellow band members, friends and supporters anxiously awaited the arrival of the 20 ‘Marching 100’ members who performed in the 48th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 8.
Around 11:45 p.m. the band members exited the plane and were welcomed with a booming rendition of the “FAMU Spirit Fight Song” performed by fellow band members.
“It makes me feel that what we are doing is appreciated and this whole experience is humbling,” explained Shaun West, 23, a drum major and graduate criminal justice student from Tallahassee.
Even after a busy week and a long flight, the ‘100’ members were ecstatic and surprised when greeted at the airport.
“I didn’t expect all of this. It’s like you think it’s all over, and then this. I am very grateful,” said James West IV, 19, a sophomore architecture student and tuba player from Port Arthur, Texas.
Twenty students were chosen based on their musical talent, athleticism, energy, and overall performance to travel to the City of Angels.
The plane arrived at noon west coast time. The group then checked in to the Westin Bonaventure, and was assigned two people per room. An hour and a half later, they began their first practice.
In order to have a perfect performance, the group had to practice almost 12 hours each day. Kanye worked very closely and personally with the 20 selected members.
“On the third day Kanye came in and said he wanted more energy and that the performance looked too conservative, so we took it up a level,” explained Ralph Jean-Paul, 23, a senior music education student and tuba player.
Jamie Foxx was also present, giving support and helping to keep up the morale.
“We felt more relaxed when (Jamie Foxx) was there. He lighted the mood,” said Charles Moorer 19, Sophomore Music Education student from Bell Glade.
Although the Marching 100 endured many hours of changing and perfecting their routine, they were able to make time to enjoy Los Angeles.
Whether they were dining out, shopping, or sight seeing, they were transported comfortably in three Cadillac Escalades and one party bus.
After days of preparation and anticipation, the group was finally ready for their big performance. For most of the day, the group remained in the Staple Center skyboxes which doubled as their dressing room.
Fortunately the performers had some down time before the Grammys began.
“As soon as the Grammys started we suited up. About an hour before we performed we went backstage to do sound check. We kept meeting celebrity after celebrity. It seemed like they were just as happy to see us as we were to see them,” said Charles Moorer.
Ready or not, it was show time. Back home, supporters of the Marching 100 gathered around their televisions anxiously waiting for the group to perform.
As soon as they hit the stage, the crowds went wild. People at home were shouting and cheering, and even the celebrity packed audience seemed to love the Marching 100’s performance.
The energy and the passion could be seen and heard in the musicians posses.
“I am proud and elated that they were selected for such a prestigious event. And I feel that they represented the true spirit of FAMU and the Marching 100,” said Band Director and Chairman of the Department of Music, Julian White.
After the show ended and the day came to an end, the band members were able to reflect on their amazing experience. Many realized that it was not just 15 minutes of fame.
“This experience opened my eyes to what I could accomplish. I realized what I can do if I stay focused. It was inspiring,” Said George.
When the group returned to school on Friday they were honored at a special celebration at “the Set”.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Deborah Austin, Director of Public Affairs LeNedra Carrol, White, and even Miss FAMU congratulated the performers.
Shaun West also spoke on behalf of the group.
“To the Marching 100, it was special to see the love and support you gave us. Without this student body we can not be where we are today, we love you and thank you,” West said.
Contact Sarah Beguiristain at firstname.lastname@example.org