News & Updates
Trumpets, Drums and High Steps - Time-Honored Marching Band Tradition to be on Full Display!
Morehouse College and Howard University bring on the music at the 2nd annual Classic
WASHINGTON, D.C. – While football practice began last week for the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers and Howard University Bison, so did the rigorous training of Band Camp, a time-honored tradition on the campuses of these two Historically Black Colleges and Universities. On Saturday, September 1, when both football teams open their seasons in the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic™ at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC, the competition also begins for the Morehouse College “House of Funk,” and Howard University “Showtime” marching bands.
“I have been thinking about what our halftime show was going to look like since last year’s [AT&T Nation’s Football Classic™] game,” said Blake Gaines, Director of Bands at Morehouse College. “I can guarantee that this year’s performance will be tear-jerking, dramatic and exciting.”
“We are always looking for new ways to take our performances to the next level,” said John Newson, Director of Bands at Howard University, who has been a band director for 44 years and Howard’s band director for 26 years. “I just want my band to put on the best show possible.”
Both bands have received national recognition for their talents. Morehouse’s “House of Funk” was featured in the movie “Stomp the Yard”, and has performed at prestigious events such as the Super Bowl XXXIV pre-game, the Today Show and the Annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans. Howard’s “Showtime” has performed during numerous NFL games including the Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets and marched in the 56th Inaugural Parade of President Barack Obama.
Since the experimental marching band style was introduced in 1946 by Dr. William Foster, then band director at Florida A&M University (FAMU), the old militant corps of marching has been replaced with modern day high energy dances, style and entertainment. This new style gained rapid popularity during the late ‘50s, especially with HBCUs in the South. Attention to this growing tradition was highlighted when Grambling State University performed during halftime of the first NFL Super Bowl in Los Angeles in 1967. The halftime show has since become one of the most beloved traditions at an HBCU football game, earning the nickname “5th Quarter.”
Being a band member takes commitment. Morehouse and Howard’s band camps consist of a minimum of five days of intense practice from 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., which includes sectional rehearsals, full band practice and marching on the field. Band members are expected to maintain university grade standards to participate. Those who receive band scholarships can achieve no less than a 3.0 grade point average. The rehearsals and travel commitments continue throughout the academic year.
“There is a dedication on the part of each band member to participate in all aspects of Band Camp,” said Newson. “If you don’t know the fundamentals, the rest won’t matter.”
Despite the theatrics of their performances, both band directors emphasize the importance of music. “My students are expected to read up to 20 sheets of music just on the first day of Band Camp,” said Gaines. “The way the band sounds is what will draw the audience in to watch the whole performance.”
Being a member of the band can be a lifelong commitment. Band Director Gaines and Associate Band Director of Howard Kelvin Washington marched and played together during their undergraduate careers at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and several Morehouse and Howard marching band alumni children carry on the tradition when they enter college.
“There will be competition on the field but we, of course, will be friends after,” said Washington. “We look forward to performing and leaving it all on the field.”
“[House of Funk] is definitely not coming up [to Washington, D.C.] to shake hands,” said Director Gaines. “Just as much as the football teams are preparing to play their game, we are there to play ours. This is a put up or shut up situation.”
ATTNFC website: www.NationsFootballClassic.com
ATTNFC Twitter: @NationsClassic
ATTNFC Facebook: www.Facebook.com/NationsFootballClassic
Howard University website: www.howard.edu
Morehouse College website: www.morehouse.edu
Teri Washington, Events DC: (202) 494-5737
Courtney Eiland, Events DC: (202) 608-1140
Lisa Milner/ Bryant Mortimer, Swanson Communications: (202) 783-5500
About Events DC
Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, delivers premier event services and flexible venues across the nation’s capital. Leveraging the power of a world-class destination and creating amazing attendee experiences, Events DC generates economic and community benefits through the attraction and promotion of business, athletic, entertainment and cultural activities. Events DC oversees the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, an anchor of the District’s hospitality and tourism economy that generates over $400 million annually in total economic impact, and the historic Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square. Events DC manages the Stadium-Armory campus, which includes the historic Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and surrounding Festival Grounds, and the non-military functions of the DC Armory. Events DC also built and now serves as landlord for Nationals Park, the first LEED-certified major professional sports stadium in the United States. For more information, please visit www.eventsdc.com.
About the AT&T Nation's Football Classic™
The AT&T Nation's Football Classic™ is a black college football game held annually at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. This year, the game features Howard University against Morehouse College. Organized by Events DC, the AT&T Nation's Football Classic™ was created to celebrate the passion and tradition of the college football experience, recognize the history of service to others by the students, faculty and alumni of historically black colleges and universities, highlight the unity of African American culture, and honor the heritage and excellence of these proud institutions. Tickets for the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic™ are on sale now at Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster outlets, the Howard University Box Office at Cramton Auditorium and the Morehouse College Bookstore. Seats are priced $25 to $50.