What Is the History of the Southern University Marching Band?


Quick Answer

Based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Southern University is a historically African-American educational institution. Its world-famous marching band, affectionately known as “The Human Jukebox,” is a legend on the collegiate band circuit. For several decades now, the band and its members have enjoyed recognition and fame in a variety of formats. They have been featured in TV commercials, music videos, live shows and even three United States presidential inaugurations.

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Full Answer

In the late 1940s, the foundation of the Southern University marching band was laid by seven directors, including T. Leroy Davis. Davis is often credited with transforming the band from a sedate, traditional group of musicians into an impressive, high-performance ensemble. Since then, the band has consistently set the standard to which other collegiate bands aspire.

In 2000, the Southern University marching band was invited to perform live in the Bermuda Day parade. The recording label, Motown Records, held a competition for African-American bands in 2002 that the band won, outperforming 20 other bands. The prize was $10,000 in cash. The Human Jukebox continued to enjoy media attention throughout the 2000s. In 2004 it became the first (and only) band to be featured on ABC Studios’ Nightline television program.

In 2008, the band was awarded the title of the “Number 1 band in the nation” by USA Today, a daily newspaper. In 2014, the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranked it at Number 2. One of the most significant events in the Southern University marching band’s history occurred after the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina. In August 2006, they performed at the newly reconstructed Louisiana Superdome in support of the home team, the New Orleans Saints. Their precision drills, energetic music and meticulous formations captivated the 70,000-strong crowd.

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