HU Band About Legacy, Force
Their schedule is rigid; militant.
Breakfast is at 7 a.m. followed by instrument sectionals practice at 8 a.m. Then there's lunch, more rehearsals inside the Hampton University Convocation Center, dinner and then more sectionals practice after that.
It's about 11 p.m. when members of the Hampton University Marching Band retire for the night after band camp.
"The marching band and the military have a lot in common; the protocol and discipline," said Curtis Mason, an HU junior and the Pirates' newest drum major.
Band camp began Aug. 5. Also known as "The Force" the HU band is 225 people deep this year. The group's director, Al Davis, is excited about this year's football and basketball seasons, and the legacy the band continues to uphold.
"We are, along with the choir, the musical ambassadors of this university," Davis said. "We are the heart and soul of the university when it comes to football and basketball. We carry the torch and we try to be the banner carriers … making sure they're supported in spirit."
Staples for the band are crowd favorites like, "Talking Out The Side of Your Neck," by Cameo and "Pretty Brown Eyes," by Mint Condition. Depending on season schedules the band travels four to six times a year during football season. The band's existence by the sea dates back to about 1912, Davis said.
There are 10 instrumental sections of the band which are accompanied by dance groups Ebony Fire.
Prospective HU students fill out a form enclosed in the admission application packet if they're interested in band tryouts.
"We recruit like the football team," Davis said, "and we're probably a little more cut throat."
Tryouts for the drum major position are particularly intense; there are a list of drum major techniques to be perfected, including vocal and whistle commands, and interviews with current drum majors and staff, as well as a talent portion.
Terrell White, a senior, is the band's lead drum major. HU's band has been part of the Hampton Va., native's life for a while.
"I went to Hampton High School and I would always see ‘The Force' practicing," said White, 20. "Then, I came and did band camp one summer."
Being in the forefront is a privilege he said, adding that drum majors are the organization's student leaders that help run practices, and who're the "right hand man" to the director.
Davis has been the band's director for five years. After earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees from HU, both in music education, he worked as the university's assistant band director for six years.
Then, Davis led Delaware State's band for three years before returning to his alma mater at the helm of its band in fall 2004. It's a pleasure to serve as a leader, Davis said.
As for the routine Davis puts the bands members through, the complexity and demands are always worth it when they hit the field, Mason said.
"It's just fulfilling," Davis said. "You are in a uniform at the game; it's something everybody can't say they do. There are 150-200 people and everybody has to do their part. With the football team you have to be (in line) with 11 other people. Just imagine that with 160 people. People gain something or walk away with something from seeing the band."