Thousands turn out for ‘Battle of Bands’

Thousands turn out for ‘Battle of Bands’

By LaJenine T. Wilson Contributing Writer | 2/1/2013, 3:07 p.m.
Thousands of fans, students and black college alumni packed the Georgia Dome on Saturday to witness electrifying performances from eight ...
(Courtesy photo).

ATLANTA – Thousands of fans, students and black college alumni packed the Georgia Dome on Saturday to witness electrifying performances from eight of the nation’s top marching bands during the 11th Annual Honda Battle of the Bands.

Hosted by V-103 morning show host, Ryan Cameron, the battle included the iconic marching bands of Albany State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, Jackson State University, North Carolina A&T University, Tennessee State University, Winston-Salem State University and first-time participant, Alcorn State University.

The Honda Battle of the Bands was created to celebrate, support and recognize the excellence of Black college marching bands and the unique academic experience offered by HBCUs.

For first time attendees like Amber Nelson-Green of Decatur, the battle more than lived up to the hype.

“I thought it was absolutely wonderful,” said Nelson-Green. “I’m glad I came, but I’m especially glad I brought my kids… I think they really need to experience more events like this.”

Nelson-Green, 33, said that HBCUs have gotten a bad rap in recent years. So she’s glad to see the Battle of the Bands continuing to promote the positive accomplishments being made by the schools.

“I just hope people can see past all of the negativity these bands have received and really support them,” said Nelson-Green. “These kids really work hard and you can tell it.”

The theme for this year’s event was, “House Party,” and it proved to be nothing short of an old school house party as the selected eight bands wowed the crowd with hits from artists like Earth, Wind and Fire, Midnight Star, the Gap Band, R. Kelly and the late Whitney Houston.

The bands weren’t the only attention getters in the dome, however. Fans also were treated to electrifying performances from Grammy Award-winning artist Brandy as well as 1990s American dance music singer and songwriter, Crystal Waters.

Fans helped to amp up the party by participating in two dance contests presented by official presenting sponsor, Verizon Wireless.

Honda added to the excitement by giving away two new cars during the Honda Battle of the Band Sweepstakes. One finalist became the owner of the award-winning 2013 Honda Accord, while a second lucky fan received a new 2013 Honda Civic.

It was all part of the mission of showcasing black college musicians and supporting music programs at the schools, officials said.

“The battle not only provides a national stage to showcase the talent of these outstanding student musicians, but also the success of the music education programs at each school,” said Marc Burt, assistant vice president, Office of Inclusion and Diversity for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “So Honda is honored to support these programs with grants that each school receives for participating in the program.”

Burt said the showcase – one of the largest and most popular music events of its kind – also serves as a platform to highlight and celebrate the heritage and showmanship of HBCU marching bands, while at the same time supporting HBCU music education programs.

“For more than a decade, Honda Battle of the Bands has proudly supported music education programs at HBCUs, and we’re always honored to provide the stage for these talented young musicians,” he said. “The time and effort these students pour into each performance is evident every time they take the field.”

Regular attendees like Natalie Andrews of Stockbridge agree and said the battle gives her an opportunity to reminisce about her own days on the field.

“I remember marching out on the field, in the cold, wearing those skimpy outfits… But we loved it,” said Andrews. “We loved the music, we loved performing and we loved that the people loved to watch us perform.”

A graduate of Morris Brown College and former member of the dance team, Shaw remembers fondly what it was like to perform with the marching band in front of thousands of people.

“It was just an awesome, awesome experience for me,” said Shaw. “It’s something that I will always be able to look back and be proud of…and these students should, too.”