As AM&N developed as a relatively young college, innovative ideas were flourishing within the hiring process pertaining to the development of the Music Department. In 1946, Miss Alma L. Brown was hired as a Band Director and Instructor of Woodwind Instruments. She maintained the program while battling the lack of instruments, fluctuating student enrollments, and inadequate facilities and equipment.
Ariel M. Lovelace, the Music Department Chairperson at the time, began a search for a dedicated, motivated musical leader to strengthen the department. He found Harold S. Strong who was hired in 1952. During the following years, Harold Strong built a band program that provided exciting musical performances wherever they appeared. He retired in 1981 after 29 years of unmatched, dedicated, and loyal service. Because of his unswerving passion and ability to bring out the best in many talented students, the UAPB Band and Music Department are successful today.
From 1981 until 1989, the band was under the capable leadership of Mr. Odie E. Burrus, the first AM&N/UAPB alumnus to serve as Band Director. It was Mr. Burrus who named the band “The Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South” and the dance line the “Golden Girls”. Mr. Burrus carried on the traditions of the band program as established by Mr. Strong.
Other directors of the UAPB Band include Dr. Joseph L. Miller who introduced the current march style in use today with the UAPB Band. Dr. Miller also created performance opportunities that gave the band exposure unlike before. Mr. Kelvin W. Washington, who maintained the band program during very difficult times, succeeded Dr. Miller. The UAPB football program was given the death penalty for two years and in spite of this, Mr. Washington was able to maintain a successful band program.
The current Director of Bands at UAPB is Mr. John R. Graham, Jr. Mr. Graham assumed the directorship in July 1994. Under Mr. Graham’s leadership, the UAPB Band is one of the largest and most successful collegiate band programs in the nation. Under his guidance, the band has grown to nearly 300 members and has appeared throughout the nation.
Notable performances during the history of the UAPB Marching Band include: National Football League performances for the Kansas City Chiefs (1979), New Orleans Saints (1990), and the St. Louis Rams (2000). The band also performed at Governor Bill Clinton’s Inaugurations (1989 and 1991) and President Clinton’s Election Celebration (1992). The UAPB Marching Band has performed in numerous parades including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference “Drum Major for Justice” MLK Parade St. Petersburg, Florida in 1990 and 1991, and the “ Krewe of Rex “ Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans.
The UAPB Marching Band has performed in nearly every major stadium in the country, including The Cotton Bowl, Texas Stadium, Soldier Field, Legion Field, Houston Astrodome, Louisiana Superdome, The Liberty Bowl, Independence Stadium, War Memorial Stadium, Arrow Head Stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, and the Georgia Dome. In 2004, the “Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South” (M4) was featured on the nationally syndicated television sports program It’s In the Game and has performed on the national television broadcast of Operation PUSH (2004, 2005, 2006). The band performed at the SWAC Championship Game in 2007. M4 performed at the 6th Honda Invitational Battle of the Bands and performed at the opening of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center (broadcast worldwide on X.M. satellite radio) in 2008. Most recently the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South marched in the 56th Presidential Inaugural Parade for the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, and performed a halftime show for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
The UAPB Band continues to mesmerize fans wherever it appears.