The Beat Goes on For Marching ‘100’

For members of Florida A&M’s “Marching 100,” college is one big halftime show that concludes after about five or six years. 

But for some members of the famous band the beat goes on, sometimes for almost a decade.

This is because the university’s marching band does not have a membership term limit for student participants.

In recent years, the band has received numerous honors from playing with Kanye West and Jamie Foxx at the 2006 Grammys in Los Angeles, to representing the state of Florida in the inaugural parade for President Barack Obama.

Yet, the band does not have a limit on how long a student can march. Members of the “100” can march as long as they are registered in the class.

“I just always thought that was part of what the ‘Marching 100′ is,” said Ryan Edwards, fourth-year animal science student from Detroit. “I remember one band member that was there for nine or 10 years; it was pretty long.”

Julian White, director of bands at FAMU who succeeded William Foster in 1998, is adamant that the “Marching 100” does not need a term

limit. White said that as a high school band director, he would not let students march that did not have the necessary grades.

“Band is a motivating factor for academics,” said White. “Here at the university, if you get into trouble or are not meeting the university required GPA and those academic requirements, we are not going to let you march. I would not impose a term limit and I do not advocate for one.”

White continued: “Three or four years ago, we had some difficulty and band members where not as focused as they should have been.”

The “Marching Wildcats” at Bethune-Cookman University are among the top HBCU band programs in the country. Although there is no official term limit stated by the program, Donovan Wells, director of bands for Bethune-Cookman, does not let students march with the band said a band program could face problems.

“There is an age gap. Now you are starting to have students socialize with each other. You have students who are 23 or 24 year-olds that, legally, can do and go anywhere and then you have 18 year-olds fresh out of high school and away from home for the first time,” said Wells.

“This could cause problems especially since band is coed. A lot of the time, it is just not okay to have that age gap,” Wells added.

Unlike band members, FAMU cheerleaders can only cheer for four years.

Athletes have four years of eligibility.

Back in 2006, the “Marching 100” was plagued with students who did not have the required 2.0 GPA for marching. Also, Castell Bryant, then interim president for FAMU, ordered that only full-time FAMU students be allowed to march. About 70 students were dismissed at that time.

White said that about 60 percent of students graduate within four to five years and the retention rate for band members is somewhere around 70 percent, citing a statistical compilation created from band members.

“It generally takes care of itself,” said White. “You have students that graduate in four years, some who graduate in five years and some who graduate in six years, and on and on. The students pretty much make the right decisions.”

According to the latest FAMU Fact book, about 11 percent of students graduate in four years, which is deemed to be low, and 29 percent of students graduate within five years.