HAMPTON, Va. – The Hampton University Marching Force is set to make its first appearance at the Honda Battle of the Bands (HBOB) this January in Atlanta, Ga.
For nearly 16 years, the HBOB has provided a unique opportunity for historically black college and university (HBCU) bands to showcase their music, dancing and school spirit to thousands of eager and enthusiastic marching band fans. According to the event’s website, the invitational showcase was created to “celebrate, support and recognize the excellence of Black college marching bands and the unique academic experience offered by HBCUs.”
The top eight bands are selected after a period of online voting and, this year, the Hampton University Marching Force was added to the lineup. Other marching bands include Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Miles College, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, and Tennessee State University.
This year’s selection is the culmination of months of hard work and dedication from each student and staff member, and from Director of University Bands Dr. Thomas L. Jones, who is only in his first year in the position. Jones, a Hampton graduate, says he came back to Hampton on faith and is proud of the band’s accomplishments so far.
“It’s a huge honor [to be performing]! I came into this situation on a leap of faith, and I gave up a lot to be here, but I don’t regret it for a single moment,” said Jones. “This is Hampton’s first time being selected to Honda, and this is the first time that any band has been selected in their first year with a new director. So for me – but more importantly, for the students – it feels like validation to remind everyone that we are doing the right thing over here and that there is truly something special happening with this band program.”
To make the most of the experience and to support Hampton’s growing music program, the Marching Force will be visiting a number of high schools on the way to Atlanta, as part of a recruitment tour. Recruitment events are essential to the development and overall success of every marching band program, and Jones hopes to reach as many high school students as possible in January.
“On the way to Atlanta, we will be stopping at several high schools all along the way,” Jones stated. “Ideally, we will aim to have evening recruiting events in Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, S.C., and Atlanta, Ga. These events would be held at a central location and after school hours so that we can invite all students from area high schools to come check us out. We will perform for the students, talk about Hampton, do on-site applications and admissions, and even do auditions for band scholarships.”
News of Hampton’s upcoming performance has led to an excited alumni fan base that has already bought tickets for, and sold out, several sections at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This show of support is important to the band’s success and overall student morale, according to Jones.
“It shows our students just how much the alumni care about the band program, and it drives them to practice harder in order to put a great show on the field,” said Jones. “It is extremely rewarding to know that we have such strong supporters in our corner. One of the best things about being a performer is the response from the audience. The students really do feed off of that energy.”
Along with support in attendance, alumni are encouraged to support the Marching Force with a financial gift. The organization recently kicked off a fundraiser for its upcoming recruitment tour, and is continuing to raise funds for general operating costs; including scholarships, instruments and general recruiting.
“When the alumni give back to the band program financially, it helps us cover the costs of everything we need to be great. For next year, we are looking at purchasing all new instruments and new uniforms, in addition to covering the costs of additional scholarships, recruiting, and other operating costs. Those donations really do go a long way in helping us to attract and retain the best and brightest student musicians, in addition to providing them with the best possible experience while they are here and setting them up for success overall.”
As far as what spectators can expect to see from the Marching Force in January, Jones says the band may be small, but they plan to “make the best possible impact to really put the school on the map!”
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Ticket & Travel Info
Pirate Party Bus!
HU Pirates!! The Official Party Bus to the Battle is your ticket to Homecoming Part II: The Atlanta Takeover! Multiple pick-up locations, exclusive host hotel rate, hospitality suite access and more! This is the best travel rate available, so seats will go fast!! Get on the bus and join your fellow Pirates as they party on down to the ATL to support the Hampton University Marching Force for the 2018 Honda Battle of the Bands, which will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, January 27, 2018. Reserve your seat today and #GetOnTheBus!