Feb 3, 2023 - News

Battle of the Bands to showcase Southeast's best HBCU marching bands

A photo of a marching band with brass instruments and a bandleader leading out front

Photo: Courtesy of 4THPARK

Eight bands. Hundreds of musicians. Countless drumsticks. This Saturday, they will pack Mercedes-Benz Stadium to showcase some of the Southeast's best HBCU marching band talent.

What's happening: Musicians from Alabama State, North Carolina A&T and Grammy-nominated Tennessee State universities will compete alongside two of Atlanta's best high school marching bands — Westlake in South Fulton and Mableton's Pebblebrook — at the All-Star Battle of the Bands.

What we're watching: The Westlake Mighty Marching Lions. Called the heartbeat of the school, the roughly 130-member band has been working on their performances since July, director Cedric Young told Axios.

  • Expect formations spelling out words, numbers and characters, plus plenty of flair, he said.

The Marching Lions will deliver a high-level, university-caliber arrangement that shows off the year-round program’s musicianship, Young said. Maybe a ballad or two, which Young said shows off both artistry and skill.

What they're saying: HBCU marching bands have their roots in military drum corps. Some still employ military drill commands like about face, dress right dress, and come to attention.

  • "The terminology hasn’t changed," Young said. "Just the feel of the performance has changed. The groove."

Of note: In addition to an incredible sight and sound to behold, the marching bands offer parents and guardians a chance to educate kids about the emotional, social and leadership skills that playing in the band can offer.

  • "These students have been in band since middle school and now most of them are receiving scholarships," Young said. "How about using band and academics to get your education paid for through being in these bands?"

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