The Battle of HBCU Bands Debuts Thursday on ESPNU
The Battle Presented by AT&T - an inside look at the HBCU (Historically Black College and University) Marching Bands from Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M - will air five 30-minute shows during four straight weeks, every Thursday from Nov. 4 to Nov. 25, on ESPNU. The shows reach into the training, discipline, heart and soul that make up HBCU bands. The bands train rigorously day-in and day-out for the football games and rivalries that date back decades as part of the HBCU culture.
The bands' hard work will culminate at the 31st annual Florida Classic that pits the two Sunshine State rivals in an end-of-the-year showdown at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando Saturday, Nov. 20, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN Classic.
The cross-stadium battle of the bands happening throughout the duration of the game and even after in what is called "The Fifth Quarter" is a mix of modern tunes, fight songs and traditional standards. The 300-plus sized band that learns over 20 songs with dance routines, military style formation and chants is mentally and physically demanding with practices that rival the football team's preparation for game day. The long hours and hard work are only a small part of the payoff that is the hometown pride and year-long bragging rights to the school with the most powerful sound and creative show.
Music producer, fashion designer and film maker Dallas Austin produced The Battle. Austin was the executive producer and music director of the widely-known movie Drumline.
"Since Drumline's success, I wanted to go deeper and show an inside look at how the HBCU culture continuously pushes the bar sonically and visually," said Austin. "These Historical Black Universities hone the skills of kids nationwide but primarily in the South. Things are done a bit different down here so southern pride and style influences are everything from the players to the playlist."
FAMU is led by director Dr. Julian White, who has been a part of the band for 37 years and trained under the legendary Dr. William P. Foster. White has a strong emphasis on musicality and perfection, and is adamant about upholding the school's legacy that was built by Foster, the program founder and director (1946-98), who passed away in August. Donovan Wells has been the BCU band director for more than 15 years and has transformed the Marching Wildcats into one of the premier bands in the country. A stern disciplinarian that aims for perfection in his life and expects nothing less from the band, often acts as a father figure to many in his corps.
While both bands are the focus of the series, several members stood out during the filming of The Battle, which began in late August and will go through the Florida Classic. Segments include a section leader, who is in the process of determining her career path during her last year of school, while band members, who practice for hours and essentially do everything together on and off the field, try to find that school-life balance. Viewers will see how the band has shaped each member's life in a different way, whether it is a first-year band member or a four-year veteran.
The Battle Presented by AT&T on Thursday Nights