OBSERVATION! The HBCU Band Experience

by Robert Bratcher, National Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer
originally printed in the Spring 2015 issue

Publications Manager Observation!

In my last OBSERVATION, I urged brothers and sisters to embrace chapters and bands with different cultures. Within the fabric of our band community, we have a variety of styles of band and music represented. One of these different styles can be seen in the bands at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Initially, black colleges formed bands to help raise money for the schools, soon after Land Grant Acts called for the equal distribution of higher education funds.  Most historians believe the earliest HBCU band was formed at Tuskegee Normal School (now Tuskegee University), the Tuskegee Normal School Brass Band (1894).


Rich in tradition and pride, our particular style is a sight to behold. The thrilling amalgam of traditional styles of the Big Ten bands, African-American traditions, and contemporary popular music.


As an HBCU graduate, band alumni, and fan (also known as a “bandhead”), I was immersed in and fell in love with this particular style of band. It is a style with an infectious energy. An energy that is celebrated and put on full display at the Honda Battle of the Bands. I invite everyone to attend an event like the Honda Battle of the Bands, “the Super Bowl of HBCU Bands”. It is a must; Everyone should experience the pageantry, the excitement, the intensity, and the passion of HBCU bands.

“Halftime is gametime” isn’t just a quote from the movie Drumline. We live that in a way that is truly unique throughout the marching band season.  But halftime isn’t the only time. During the season, game days can turn into all day events.

When two HBCU bands enter a stadium, they most likely won’t be waiting until halftime to go at it. In the black college band world, bands are often battling each other in musical warfare. There is a football game happening, but also each band is engaged in a friendly yet intense competition to prove their superiority over the other band across the field. Many times, after the game, in a tradition known as “the 5th quarter”, each band goes round for round, song for song with dedicated bandheads and interested game attendees watching and judging. A 5th quarter can be just a few songs while others have lasted HOURS!

It’s that extra competitive drive and pride that adds to the entire HBCU experience. An experience everyone is encouraged and invited to have.

As it is with all chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma, the character of the band program can be seen in the chapter. The same pride, style, and love is displayed. For example, stepping is based on long, rich African-based traditions of movement and sounds.

The flavor and the history of our dedication enriches the overall band world and both Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma.

Sample of some major HBCU events coming up:
August 29th – Battle For The Crown Battle of the Bands (Greenville, SC)
August 29th – Queen City Battle of the Bands (Charlotte, NC)
September 5th – 31st Labor Day Classic – Prairie View A&M v. Texas Southern (Houston, TX)
September 6th – 11th Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge – Arkansas-Pine Bluff v. South Carolina State (Orlando, FL)
September 26th – 18th Chicago Football Classic – Howard v. Morgan State (Chicago, IL)
September 26th – State Fair Classic – Grambling State v. Prairie View A&M (Dallas, TX)

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