N.C. Central University’s high-stepping marching band, the Sound Machine, participated in the Queen City Battle of the Bands competition on August 26 in Charlotte. More than a thousand people of all ages, backgrounds, and universities came together while HBCU marching bands perform their skills at the start of the fall semester.
The annual event was created in 2010 by Derek Webber, owner of Webber Marketing & Consulting, in an attempt to bring communities together from various Historically Black College and Universities. Bands from schools such as Bethune-Cookman, Jackson State, and Alabama State performed as well last Saturday.
The Sound Machine performed their field show for the audience and later filled one section of the bleachers as they played against Winston-Salem State, which was sitting in the next section, in a one on one musical battle. This was the part of their show where bands next to each other played songs towards the audience on the opposite side of the field to see who had the best enthusiastic musicianship.
Although the competition did not have an official winner, there was an unofficial online poll in which people could vote on who they liked best. By the time the poll closed Aug. 29, NCCU ranked seventh out of nine schools, with Miles College from Alabama coming out on top. The poll and footage of the performing schools were placed on HBCUSports.com.
Students in NCCU’s Sound Machine dedicated an immense amount of time, energy and patience into developing their performance. The average practice ran from 6 to 10 p.m. every weekday.
After an hour of indoor warm-ups, the drum majors would instruct everyone to move onto the football field to practice marching and parade formations. From there, practices normally moved into the bleachers where they would rehearse one-on-one band battles. Band staff and directors would make students stay until they fixed any issues found in their marching or musicianship. After practices, the band would go back into the band room for a final play through of all songs and receive closing remarks and announcements from staff.
“The energy, the movement, the chants, everything should come from your heart,” junior social work major Imani Johnson said. “The faculty and staff can give us everything they can but when it comes to giving it your all, that can only come from yourself.”
Johnson, in her third year with the Sound Machine, said that the band prepared well for the event but still had areas to improve on going into the QCBOTB. She mentioned that the overall consistency of performances would waver throughout the day since members would get tired and lose focus during the long and intensive rehearsal process.
Second year Sound Machine member Tyrik Dawkins explained that work needed to be done in order to improve what he called the “immature sound” of the unit.
“The music could be retained better and quicker,” Dawkins said.
“We have a sound that needs improvement but it has a strong foundation, to build upon,” said sophomore music education major Kal-El East, who is in his second year playing mellophone for the Sound Machine.
“The atmosphere–the spirit is unlike anything I have ever witnessed,” East said. “Most people think the band is just an extracurricular activity, but it is a way of life.”