MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The competition to be the next top HBCU marching band in the country is on and the Prairie View A&M Marching Storm is in the hunt. Every Monday night at 7 on CW30, March, a new docuseries follows the long days of rigorous rehearsals, classes and friendships for students who makeup the band.
Historians trace the HBCU band tradition back to the American South in the 1890s at Tuskegee University, based on military styles of marching practiced by Black men during their service. In the mid-1700s, the government feared a rebellion by Black men who were required to enlist, but not allowed to carry guns, instead only instruments.
Out of that grew the modern version of the HBCU bands that have dazzled audiences from game day to Inaugurations.
Halftime is no time for concession stand break at an HBCU game. Instead, audiences settle in for a highly anticipated 15 minutes of performance and a competition between the two school's bands - who will execute the best drills, dance moves, and latest popular songs.
Maurice Watkins graduated from Whitehaven High School in Memphis with sights set on marching in Jackson State University's Sonic Boom of the South, but instead became a member of the Prairie View A&M's Marching Storm. The trombone player was ecstatic to learn his band would be the focus of a television series.
"I kinda had to get used to it personally. I was like camera crews are getting closeups of you and they're following you around. They've got lights outside to make sure everything looks nice. I'm like wow, we're really doing this right now," said Watkins.
Jasma Jackson was a member of the famed Jackson State University Prancing J-sette dance line. For her, March took her back to her college experience.
"It was long hours, going to bed late a lot of times trying to execute the dance moves and even study groups," said Jackson.
Watkins agrees and says March is a true depiction of the what happens before HBCU bands take the field.
Catch the excitement and drama Mondays at 7 on CW30.