At halftime of Florida A&M’s season opener in Orlando on Sunday against Mississippi Valley State University, the famed Marching “100” will put on its first performance in almost two years. But this time, the Marching “100” will consist of only 137 members.
The last sight of the band 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.
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.”
James had similar sentiments, stressing that production and musicianship are more important to a performance than a band’s size.
“My philosophy is, whatever we do, we have to do it well, flawlessly,” he said. “See, it’s not the quantity. It’s the quality.”
Size, however, is not the only factor that could work against the Marching “100.” According to McRoy, only about half of the students in the band are returning members.
“Approximately 45 percent of the band is made up of freshmen and first-year sophomores,” she said.
James, who has an entirely new bass drum and tenor drum section, noted that even some of the upperclassmen have only marched one season before the Robert Champion hazing incident happened. But even so, he said the students are doing a great job preparing for Sunday.
“They’re really working hard,” James said. “Even with a veteran band, the first performance is always the most tedious trying to get it off the ground.”
With so many new members performing for the first time together, 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 they will maintain the Marching “100’s” tradition of excellence.
Calvin Long II, a first-year music student from Orlando in the Marching “100,” said although 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, 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.