FAMU alumnus highlights Florida’s black bands in book

Dale Thomas, a 1986 graduate of Florida A&M University, former “Marching 100” member and self proclaimed music lover, knows first-hand the adrenaline rush that comes with performing on the field.

He is also aware of the spirit that bands can bring to their universities, as well as the surrounding communities.

It was this excitement and adoration for his craft of making music that inspired the writing of his newly released book, “A Band in Every School: Portraits of Historically Black School Bands.”

Published this past July, the 186-page book is a compilation of the history of the Florida Association of Band Directors (FABD), and their successful attempt to increase the standard of musicianship among students in Florida’s historically black schools during the period of segregation in the 1960s.

“This is the story behind LeAnder A. Kirksey who was a former band director at FAMU and the organization [FABD] that he started along with other FAMU graduates,” Thomas said.

“They formed the organization and helped several historic black schools in Florida to organize bands in school.”

According to Thomas, his interest in the organization and its relevance has been an ongoing process for several years.

“I initially wrote an article which was published in 2001 for the American Bandmasters Association Research Journal. Since that initial article, I have wanted to do a follow-up book on the research. This book is the actual result of the initial article,” Thomas said.

Graduates of FAMU, formally known as Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College, created FABD in 1940.

The association serves as a tool for recruiting black musicians and to increase the number of black bands in the schools.

According to Thomas’ words in the introduction, the originators faced many obstacles during its beginning stages. He also accredits their “vision, leadership and persistence”, as the reasons they were able to succeed.

Jared Johnson, 19, a sophomore music education student from Fayetteville, N.C., thinks that the book is a phenomenal idea.

“For him [Thomas] to basically dedicate a great amount of his life to researching music and specifically black bands, shows how much he truly loves the art…and to know that he is a FAMU Rattler makes all of us [band students] extremely proud, “Johnson said.

“I’m glad to know that this information is available,” he said.

The book is equipped with over 100 photos of black bands, as well as a roster of the FABD members and a time line of important events. On Amazon.com, it is selling for $30, with a $10 dollar processing fee.

 Thomas said the information outlined in his book is a valuable part of black history.

“Learning about the history of African Americans, and just having the opportunity to chronicle that information so that others can see, and to know that we will not lose that information…that’s important.”