The CW’s new docusoap series, March, takes viewers inside The Marching Storm of Prairie View A&M University, a Historically Black University in Prairie View, Texas.
The show picks up during the Fall 2021 semester and the band is preparing for Homecoming, the biggest event of the year. It’s an occasion that notable alumni and celebs potentially attend. This year, it is the first return to campus since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with students eager to get back to some sense of normalcy.
Marching band members have a lot on their plate. Viewers will watch as the captain of the dance team contemplates her replacement, band members who want promotions, folks suspended — and the director of the band who has to manage it all. The students must learn to work together for a common goal.
Aside from BET’s College Hill, there hasn’t been an unscripted series with college students’ academic and social lives as the central focus of the show. But March is different.
Shadow and Act spoke to two of the members who are contributing their talents to make the band’s sound: senior drum major Jalen McCurtis-Henry and Shelbi Durand, a sophomore dancer for the Black Foxes.
They dished on adding television to their plate, what they want to showcase and more.
With school work, personal lives, and academics taking up these students’ lives, it’s hard to imagine juggling everything along with filming a show.
But McCurtis-Henry and Durand didn’t think twice when the opportunity presented itself to them.
For Durand, her motivation was simple. “I definitely wanted to show the reality of being a student at school while in a marching band,” she told us in a recent interview.
“One thing to take away, or we hope to portray, is kind of the different pieces that go into just putting on a show for Saturday’s game or allowing us to be transparent with the world and show them what actually goes on inside of the band– from the chain of command to just the camaraderie around the program,” added McCurtis-Henry.
Due to the pandemic, their experiences have differed from that of traditional students.
While those before COVID-19 have been able to enjoy campus life and all that comes with it, their experiences have been different and virtual. Durand couldn’t wait to be able to rehearse in person with her bandmates.
“Coming in and being a COVID baby – I came in 2020 when COVID was affecting everyone,” she explained. “And my first year, I really didn’t experience the full experience of being in the band, so I didn’t get to travel. We only had one game, but it was without the band. So to come back and experience everything this year was really eye-opening, and it was fun to see. I loved every experience. Transforming from not doing anything to doing everything, or at least the most we could with COVID, I think was a great experience.”
Despite having such a crazy schedule, McCurtis-Henry wouldn’t change anything about his busy life.
In fact, he says being in marching band keeps him grounded and gives him life skills he uses beyond the field.
“Being a part of the band, you realize that you have to learn how to prioritize and have time management, along with being able to be a college student or wanting to have a social life outside a band,” he said. “So joining band actually teaches you to find out what you can maintain and can’t maintain. And you also learn a big way to connect to people around the band who may be majoring in what you are and what might be a part of your organization that you want to join. So being able to manage all of that, you learn what you can and can’t do really.”
With the show, Durand is aware that a certain amount of fame may come with it. But she says she isn’t worried about getting a big head over everything.
“I definitely understand why – so factoring in why I chose to do this and just keeping an eye on my purpose here and why I came here and just enjoying the process of what this show could bring or what it won’t,” she added. “Just enjoying everything while I can. Being in school, trying to live through everything fully with COVID. So just here for a really good time.”
In recent years, there have been several famous faces incorporating HBCU marching bands and culture into their performances.
Beyoncé’s Coachella performance sparked a nationwide conversation. McCurtis-Henry says it’s about time people are starting to take notice.
“I definitely think that it’s just due to the work ethic and the many opportunities that HBCU bands around have gotten over the years,” he says. “There’s been a Super Bowl, an inauguration, a Rose Bowl – you name it. We’ve always put on a show. We’re overlooked by many but with this docuseries, it gives us a bigger platform for people to see more people who probably haven’t been to a HBCU band events or a swag football game to actually see what we do. We are trying to represent every band in this way.”
March airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW.