The most recognizable sound could be heard behind the Conrad Hutchinson Performing Arts Building. In their white and black attire, the members of World Famed Tiger Marching Band prepare for halftime of the season-opener on Saturday against Alabama State University.
While football games are important to the schedule, the band has other key events to groom for this fall. The percussion section will join Grambling’s cheerleaders and head to New Orleans for a performance to benefit with AIDS research, held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The official details of the event are still in progress.
“The next day after we play Lincoln University in Missouri in Kansas City, the World Famed Marching Band will perform for the NFL season-opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints,” said Dr. Larry Pannell, band Director.
Grambling’s band will be traveling with a bigger group this year, with more than 80 new, energized, musically enhanced freshmen.
“Once they put on their uniform, you can’t tell the freshmen from the returning members,” said Pannell, who has been band directot for over 20 years.
He understands this makes his duty more difficult. Fans will not be concerned with the band’s progression or the number of new freshmen. But fans do expect to see and hear the band that will show up at Bayou Classic, after more than 10 additional weeks of practice.
“The band is just like the football team, it takes time to learn everything,” said Pannell.
When people think of Grambling, it’s usually associated with the legacy of Eddie G. Robinson, the football team and the marching band.
“The football team might have a down year and survive by coming back strong the next year, but the band can never afford to have a bad year,” Pannell said.
Certain members of the band, this is a trying time. They are transforming into Grambling drum majors, a legacy built on leadership, commitment and dedication.
Edwin Thomas, who is responsible for drum majors and the percussion section, remains optimistic on naming official positions.
Thomas explains it’s difficult to start fresh with a new squad vying to become drum majors. Usually, there is at least one returner who can lead the others and teach them the ways of a Grambling drum major.
They should exemplify leadership qualities, maintain a high grade point average and be endorsed by staff members.
“Some school’s drum majors are just a showman, but a Grambling drum major is an extension of the band directors,” said Thomas.
While some prefer to wear the uniform and showboat, Grambling’s drum majors are a functional part of the system. They are responsible for a boat-load of tasks, such as being the first at practice, navigating the band throughout practice, maintaining order during practice, travel, and games.
According to the history of Tiger Marching Band, “These leaders aren’t created in a day, for they must work their way through the ranks and display exceptional musical, drill and leadership talents.”
“A lot of time, when you are on the outside looking in, you believe it’s just about putting on a uniform,” said Thomas. “These (four) guys are continuing to try out for the first game. They must show us something.”
Jalen Hawkins motivation to try out for drum major came from the number of people telling him it was impossible.
“I want to prove everyone wrong that doubted me,” said the sophomore trombone player from Washington, D.C.
The others in line for the drum major positions are Robert Coleman, Gary Lambert, and Michael Bradley.
“I have some good competition but I have an advantage because I’ve been here longer,” said Coleman, a senior sousaphone player from Duncanville. “I have different leadership positions in the band and have been the drill sergeant for two years.”
Thomas warns fans that there is a possibility that only one, maybe two drum majors will perform Saturday against the Alabama Bulldogs.