Although the first band of instruments at what would later become known as Florida A&M University was organized in 1892, the first marching band is believed to have been organized in 1910 by Nathaniel C. Adderley, the uncle of famed jazz musicians “Nat” and “Cannonball” Adderley. Over the years and when a band director could be hired, a marching band would play for concerts, military and chapel services, graduations, special campus affairs, and athletic events.
The Second World War would diminish the number of male band members on the campus and during the year 1946, when William P. Foster was hired as the director of bands, he was met with only sixteen band members. With great determination, administrative and recruitment skills, and a talented staff, Foster, with his idea and desire of a band with 100 band members, would soon organize what would later become widely known as “The Marching 100.” Foster would go on to serve for a record fifty-two years as the longest-serving band director at Florida A&M University.
Known nationally and internationally for its high-energy, high-stepping precision in marching, spirited showmanship, dance routines, and innovative performances, the Florida A&M University Marching Band is acclaimed nationwide as one of the best collegiate marching bands in America.
The famed marching band, widely known as “The Marching 100,” has been featured in films, documentaries, commercials, and numerous publications. The band has been featured in segments on “60 Minutes” (CBS), “P.M. Magazine” (NBC), “20/20” (ABC), the “CBS Evening News,” and in Sports Illustrated. Similarly, the band has performed in five NFL Super Bowls, The 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade, six Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcases, and three presidential inaugural parades.
In 1985, the Florida A&M University Marching Band was selected as the fourth band in America and the only band from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to receive the coveted Sudler Trophy, considered to be the Heisman Trophy for collegiate marching bands. As a result, in 1989, the marching band was the only band selected by the French government to be the official U.S. representative in the Bicentennial Celebration of the French Revolution, better known as Bastille Day in Paris, France. The marching band was seen by millions of international television viewers when it marched down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris. It was now truly known as “America’s Band.”
Further, the marching band has been credited with over thirty innovations in marching band pageantry, and is known for many innovative traditions, setting the standard for marching bands around the world. The marching band's outstanding performances over the years have been recognized as a role model of excellence to garner it such accolades as “The Most Imitated Band in America” (The Miami Herald), “The Notre Dame of Marching Band,” (CBS “60 Minutes”), “The Lena Horne of Marching Bands” (Life Magazine), and “The Best Band” (The Atlanta Journal Constitution).
The current “Marching 100” Director of Bands is Dr. Shelby Chipman, a native of Miami, FL and graduate of Florida A&M University. Dr. Chipman is in his 4th year as Director of Bands and proudly serves as the fourth Director of Bands of the “Marching 100,” preceded by Dr. William P. Foster, Dr. Julian E. White, and Dr. Sylvester James. The Chairman of the Music Department and Chief Arranger of the “Marching 100” is Mr. Lindsay B. Sarjeant, and the current Assistant Director of Bands is Mr. Darryl L Baker. Additionally, Dr. Shaylor James serves as the Director of Percussion and Assistant Band Director, Dr. Nicholas Thomas serves as the Director of Woodwinds and Assistant Band Director, and Mr. Ralph Jean-Paul serves as the Director of Low Brass and Assistant Band Director. Dr. Longineu Parsons serves as the Director of Trumpets, Mr. Robert Griffin serves as the Director of Trombones, and Mr. Donald Beckwith serves as Coordinator of Equipment and Uniforms.
The current 275-member “Marching 100” band proudly encompasses students from 20 different majors, 6 graduate level students, and musicians from over 10 U.S. states. More than 5 high school valedictorians and 4 presidential scholars currently march in the “Marching 100” band.
Always on the cutting edge of band pageantry and innovation, the “Marching 100” is preserving the legacy of the past and setting the standard for the present. The “Marching 100” is a role model of excellence.