HBCUs were originally established in the late 1800′s to transition African Americans into society towards the end of slavery. Not long after the establishment of these institutions, music programs were implemented into the curriculums and the marching band became an important factor in HBCU culture and a source of entertainment.
The style of HBCU marching bands originally stuck to that of traditional military resemblance up until 1946 when Dr. William P. Foster begun incorporating dance steps into the Florida A&M Marching Band routines. Dr. William P. Foster completely changed the style of halftime performance by combining “hip”, up-to-date dance steps to more upbeat styles of music such as ragtime and jazz (genres originally developed to passionately express tragicomic hope of the black freedom struggle).
Through this break in tradition, Foster has managed to revolutionize the look of halftime performances as well as the feelings and emotions associated with it. He has risen the sentimental value of what it means to not only be a part of a HBCU marching band, but to be a part of the audience as well. Now when students and families gather to attend several HBCU football games, the most anticipated part is the half time performance.
For many, the band’s halftime performance is the main reason for their game attendance and support of the university. It is the heightened feeling of ecstasy and school spirit the band performance exhilarates that causes an always memorable time of love and fellowship. HBCU bands and dance teams have a unique, high-energy, high-stepping style.
With a passionate and devoted following, HBCU marching bands claim a unique place in America’s music and performance history. The band has become an essential part of HBCU pride and representation of each individual college or university.