The Battle of HBCU Bands Debuts Thursday on ESPNU

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The Battle of HBCU Bands Debuts Thursday on ESPNU

Full screen previewThe Battle Presented by AT&T – an inside look at the HBCU (Historically Black College and University) Marching Bands from Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M – will air five 30-minute shows during four straight weeks, every Thursday from Nov. 4 to Nov. 25, on ESPNU. The shows reach into the training, discipline, heart and soul that make up HBCU bands. The bands train rigorously day-in and day-out for the football games and rivalries that date back decades as part of the HBCU culture.

The bands’ hard work will culminate at the 31st annual Florida Classic that pits the two Sunshine State rivals in an end-of-the-year showdown at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando Saturday, Nov. 20, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN Classic.

The cross-stadium battle of the bands happening throughout the duration of the game and even after in what is called “The Fifth Quarter” is a mix of modern tunes, fight songs and traditional standards. The 300-plus sized band that learns over 20 songs with dance routines, military style formation and chants is mentally and physically demanding with practices that rival the football team’s preparation for game day. The long hours and hard work are only a small part of the payoff that is the hometown pride and year-long bragging rights to the school with the most powerful sound and creative show.

Music producer, fashion designer and film maker Dallas Austin produced The Battle. Austin was the executive producer and music director of the widely-known movie Drumline.

“Since Drumline’s success, I wanted to go deeper and show an inside look at how the HBCU culture continuously pushes the bar sonically and visually,” said Austin. “These Historical Black Universities hone the skills of kids nationwide but primarily in the South. Things are done a bit different down here so southern pride and style influences are everything from the players to the playlist.”

FAMU is led by director Dr. Julian White, who has been a part of the band for 37 years and trained under the legendary Dr. William P. Foster. White has a strong emphasis on musicality and perfection, and is adamant about upholding the school’s legacy that was built by Foster, the program founder and director (1946-98), who passed away in August. Donovan Wells has been the BCU band director for more than 15 years and has transformed the Marching Wildcats into one of the premier bands in the country. A stern disciplinarian that aims for perfection in his life and expects nothing less from the band, often acts as a father figure to many in his corps.

While both bands are the focus of the series, several members stood out during the filming of The Battle, which began in late August and will go through the Florida Classic. Segments include a section leader, who is in the process of determining her career path during her last year of school, while band members, who practice for hours and essentially do everything together on and off the field, try to find that school-life balance. Viewers will see how the band has shaped each member’s life in a different way, whether it is a first-year band member or a four-year veteran.

The Battle Presented by AT&T on Thursday Nights
(Schedule subject to change)

Date Time
Nov 4 6:30 p.m.
Nov 11 6:30 p.m.
Nov 18 6:30 p.m.
Nov 25 7 p.m.
7:30 p.m.

The 24-hour college sports television network airs more than 650 live events annually and offers over 400 original studio shows. ESPNU has seen a steady increase since its inception on March 4, 2005 and is now in over 73 million households. The brand is also available in high definition on ESPNUHD, now in over 17 million homes.


Media Contact: Rachel Margolis at 860-766-2798 or [email protected]

Rachel Margolis Siegal

A part of the Internal Communications team at ESPN, I began with the network in 2010 as part of the College Sports PR team. Always an avid sports fan and not an athlete – I grew up a huge fan of the Hartford Whalers, while also watching my brother compete at different levels. I became the manager of several high school sports teams and continued that hobby into college. While at Quinnipiac, I worked in the Sports Information Department, which led me to a summer internship at the New Haven Ravens, a AA baseball team, and an eventual job with the Athletic Communications Department at the University of Connecticut. After my five-year stint at Connecticut, I spent six years as Director of Communications at the BIG EAST Conference in Providence, R.I. before joining ESPN.
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