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Posted under: News

New 'National Battle Of The Bands' Film Dives Into The Legacy Of HBCU Marching Bands

“HBCU marching bands are a source of pride and prestige for the Black community," the film's executive producer, Derek Webber, said.

An hour-long syndicated film airing throughout Black History Month will highlight the illustrious story of marching bands at historically Black colleges and universities.

Webber Marketing, which collaborated with Forward Media Partners to present the National Battle of the Bands: A Salute to HBCU Marching Bands, said the film will be syndicated in more than 50 markets across the U.S.

"The film shines an intimate light into the history of Historically Black College and University (HBCU) marching bands and introduces you to the people who make the magic behind the music and moves HBCU alumni, fans and audiences love to hear and see," Webber Marketing said in a statement to Blavity.

Derek Webber, the executive producer and creator of National Battle of the Bands, said, “HBCU marching bands are a source of pride and prestige for the Black community.”

“As an alumnus of Hampton University, it feels amazing to produce a film paying homage to the legacies of HBCU marching bands and the trailblazers of the past and present who paved a way for their existence today,” the producer added.

HBCU bands have been seen at dozens of historic events, including presidential inaugurations and national holiday celebrations. In 2018, HBCU musicians were featured in Beyoncé’s Homecoming performance at Coachella. Howard University Showtime Marching Band escorted alumna Vice President Kamala Harris, during the inauguration last month, as Blavity previously reported.

In the past year, HBCU bands have been forced to make adjustments due to the coronavirus pandemic, often performing virtually and many having to cut down on their practice time, The Undefeated reported.

“We’ve had to adjust to a new normal without a football season. We are still planning to do some virtual things online to keep the students playing and to keep their skills up, and to make sure that our freshmen are acclimated to our style and our commands and all of those things,” Donovan V. Wells, band director at Bethune-Cookman, told The Undefeated.

The Bethune Cookman University Marching Wildcats were named one of the top-ten legendary HBCU marching bands, according to The Philadelphia Tribune. With more than 300 members, the Wildcats feature one of the largest collegiate marching bands in the country. The team includes five drum majors traditionally known as “The Five Horsemen” and the 14 Karat Gold dancers.

According to The Tribune, the rest of the top-ten HBCU bands include Florida A&M University Marching 100, Grambling State University World Famed Tiger Marching Band, Jackson State University Sonic Boom of the South, Norfolk State University Spartan Legion, North Carolina A&T State University Blue and Gold Marching Machine, South Carolina State University Marching 101, Southern University and A&M College Human Jukebox, Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands and Texas Southern University Ocean of Soul.

Webber Marketing, which has been leading strategic outreach programs for HBCUs, said the partnership with Forward Media Partners will enhance the exposure for the historic institutions.

“We are thrilled about our partnership with Forward Media Partners. Their experience and support will help to fuel our mission of enhancing the exposure of historically Black colleges and universities and their marching bands and drive it forward,” Webber said in a statement.

National Battle of the Bands is scheduled to be broadcasted each weekend throughout February. 

“We are excited about contributing to this amazing story about HBCU bands and their importance to society. The world needs to know this significant part of African American history and the Southern University Marching Band and staff are appreciative to the National Battle of the Bands for conveying it in such an excellent manner,” Kedric D. Taylor, Southern University's Director of Bands, said.

Click here to see where you can watch the film. 

Blavity is celebrating HBCUs all month long with “The Highest Learning: HBCUs” series. Be sure to check out our complete coverage of these landmark institutions, from their founding histories to their continuing roles in shaping our greatest movers and shakers. 

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