This article is a part of Blavity U Spirit Week 2023.

It’s no secret that marching bands at HBCUs are iconic!

The captivating routines embedded in Black culture and music have resonated with massive crowds in endless ways since the 19th century. From the band members and drum majors to the dance and flag girls and majorettes, everyone takes their job seriously. Their high-energy showmanship includes dazzling uniforms, precise dance routines, impeccable music selection and welcomed crowd participation.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers at Fisk University and Hampton Singers of Hampton University were some of the first HBCU choirs that date all the way back to the 1870s, reported Forbes. The instrument players in the choirs would eventually begin performing independently to raise money for the school and choir activities.

As their popularity grew, the bands began incorporating music from different genres. Under the leadership of jazz legend Nathaniel Adderley in 1946, the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University band became the first version of the modern HBCU band we know today. Best Colleges claims the “Marching 100” began performing at football games and community events.

Today, HBCU marching bands set the pulse on campuses. Students can now earn band scholarships, travel the world in competition and even have a chance at Hollywood. 

While we’re amidst homecoming season, let’s take a moment and spotlight some of the top bands from HBCUs across the nation.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

The Marching 100 is the iconic marching band of FAMU. Their innovative style formed what is known as band culture. Aside from backing the Rattlers, the band has performed with Prince during his 2007 Super Bowl half time show, the 2002 Olympics and Joe Biden’s virtual presidential inauguration.

Jackson State University

The Sonic Boom of the South is the crown jewel of Jackson State University. The Sonic Boom is responsible for some of the most viral moments in HBCU band footage. They have racked up several NFL halftime show spots with teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. In 2003, the Sonic Boom took center stage at the 34th NAACP Image Awards, as well as 1990’s Motown’s 30th-anniversary special.

North Carolina A&T State University

The North Carolina A&T State University band, the Blue & Gold Marching Machine, is the sound machine for the largest HBCU. Founded in 1918, the band has a history that spans over a century. Its massive roster of over 200 members has played in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and was named as one of the Top 10 bands by Sports Illustrated. They were also rumored to be the inspiration behind the fictional college band of Atlanta A&T in Drumline starring Nick Cannon.

Howard University

Noted as one of the most well-known HBCUs, Howard’s marching band, Howard University’s Showtime Marching Band, is a dynamic balance of tradition and artistry.  In 2021, the band escorted their alumna, Vice President Kamala Harris, during the inauguration parade.

Southern University

Southern University’s Human Jukebox is known for flawlessly merging top 40 hits and band flare. Their prolific dance team, the Dancing Dolls, has set the standard for over 53 years for performers. The band has captivated fields at eight Super Bowls and also participated in 2021’s “We Are One” inauguration event to mark the beginning of the administration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.

Alabama State University

Alabama State University’s Mighty Marching Hornets are among the best and most competitive college marching bands. In 2016, the band starred in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a film starring Vin Diesel, Joe Alwyn, Steve Martin and Chris Tucker. Their dance team, the “Honey Bees,” is one of the first plus-size dance troops performing front and center for a college band. 

Did your favorite make the list? Sound off in the comments! Let us know your favorite HBCU bands.