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FAMU Band Marches Into Trouble

by Marlon A. Walker

FAMU Band Marches Into Trouble

First, members of Florida A&M University’s famed Marching 100 were accused of stealing pillows and linens from a hotel in Detroit, where the school’s football team played Delaware State University on Sept. 2.
A week later, before heading off to Miami for a game against the University of Miami, about 65 students were removed from the band for various reasons.Certainly not a good way to kick off the year.

The band’s membership is now down to approximately 210 members, says Dr. Julian E. White, the school’s director of bands. But the quality of its performances, he assures, will continue.

“The majority of our band is focused on artistic excellence,” says White, who took over leadership of the band in 1998. “We’re disappointed that it happened, but we realize what we stand for and what we do. That is, we march, we play and we entertain the crowd.”

The band, known for its smooth renditions of contemporary radio hits and creative football field-sized formations, was accused by managers at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, where they stayed for the Sept. 2 game, of stealing linens and pillows before boarding buses back to Tallahassee. According to reports, band managers scavenged the buses to retrieve stolen items.

“Of course my reaction was disappointment and embarrassment that some of our students made a bad decision to remove property from the hotel,” White says. “That’s not something we stand for at FAMU in terms of building character and integrity.”

In the days leading up to the second performance of the year, White instituted a deadline for members to admit liability in the thefts. About a dozen students came forward, and were immediately suspended. Several other students were kicked out of the band for failing to meet the 2.0 minimum GPA requirement. Some were dismissed for not being enrolled at the university.

It’s not the first time students who weren’t enrolled have become an issue for the self-described “baddest band in the land.”

Last year, FAMU interim President Castell V. Bryant ordered that only full-time FAMU students be allowed to participate in the band, which, at the time, had included students from nearby Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College. About 40 students were released after that directive.

Whatever the number of band members, White says it will do nothing to hinder the group’s performances.

“Our performances are not predicated on numbers, and so there will not be any diminishing in the quality of the band’s performances,” he says. “If we have a certain number of students, we chart for that number. That’s whatever formation we do. If we make F-A-M-U on the field to play the alma mater, we can do it for 120 [people], we can do it for 300.”

— By Marlon A. Walker



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