(MMOT50) – What do you get when you combine nearly 350 deep lunged instrumentalists, whose mellophone and baritone sections combined alone outnumber many of the smaller collegiate program’s entire ensemble, a band director and staff who’s sole focus is smashing your band to pieces and an audience that can’t seem to get enough of it? Enter the Great Tornado Band of Talladega College, a new program that hit the scene Fall of 2012. They have become the big band with the even bigger sound, arguably the loudest band the HBCU band world has witnessed. But before Talladega, there was another band with seemingly as many accolades as they had members. The Florida A&M Marching 100 traditionally marched well over 400 instrumentalists, 420 being their largest ensemble(the largest in HBCU history).

Talladega is led by Director of Bands, Dr. Miguel Bonds, a Southern University grad who marched for the Human Jukebox in the 90’s under the direction of the legendary Dr. Isaac Greggs. After graduating from Southern, Dr. Bonds led several programs before landing his current position at Talladega. From Sarah T. Reed High School in New Orleans, to writing arrangements for the New Orleans All-Star Alumni Band, to fielding the often forgotten but legendary none the less Delaware State Band that took that MEAC by storm in 2006. (Delaware State Band 2006 “Love Saw It”)

The FAMU Marching 100 is world renowned for their original marching styles and techniques (many adopted by majority of the programs we know today) and for their overall pageantry and showmanship on parade, on the field and in the stands. Today the band is led by Director of Bands, Dr. Shelby Chipman who manages to keep the Marching 100’s traditions alive set nearly a century ago by the legendary Dr. William P. Foster.

TC and FAMU, two big a** bands with totally different styles and approach to Marching Band. One focuses on power, the other focuses on finesse, but both bands understand strength in numbers, and I use the present tense because Im confident that the 100 will be back to those numbers very soon especially upon joining the SWAC. Visually and audibly, more horns just look and sound better. Yes. I know that statement is going to stir up some folk. Fight me. Talladega is the answer to our question of what a 400 piece band would sound like if the 100 really opened up and put air in their horns. After all, this is the formula that thrusted this young band into the conversation of best programs.

FAMU and Talladega have some history bad blood, dating back to 2014. As FAMU was exiting the field after their performance, and getting setup for their traditional post-show field exit, Talladega lost their patience and struck up “Hotel California”. It got ugly, but it was a reminder to us and a wake up call to the 100 this is a new day and age of band culture. Friends are made off of the field, but its war on the field.

This fall, the Marching 100, along with the Marching Wildcats of Bethune Cookman University will become members of the highly competitive Southwestern Athletic Conference. The SWAC is full of intensity, from football to band. Will these Florida bands adapt and become more aggressive? Many say they will have to, others believe the SWAC bands will have to adapt.

As for Talladega, the College is rumored to announce their football team and new stadium in the upcoming years. If so, the 100 and the Great Tornado Band will have plenty more opportunities to settle the score in their own unique ways.


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