The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings

Prairie View and Florida Memorial are the new top Division I and Division II HBCU bands

The Marching Storm leapfrogs N.C. A&T while The ROAR makes some noise in moving up in Division II

It’s time for this season’s third Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings, and we have a new top school in both the Division I and Division II rankings: Prairie View A&M Marching Storm and The Roar Marching Band of Florida Memorial University.

The new top band is the Prairie View A&M Marching Storm in Division I. The North Carolina A&T Blue and Gold Marching Machine dropped one spot from last month’s rankings to No. 2 and Southern University’s Human Jukebox jumped three spots to No. 3.

Prairie View A&M Marching Storm, which was No. 8 in the initial ranking and No. 2 in the second ranking, moved to No. 1 on the strength of top ratings for auxiliary, drum majors, pictures, drill and design, and top five placing in musicality and percussion.

“It is an honor to be validated by a panel of my peers especially in the age of YouTube and instant gratification for everything,” said Tim Zachery, director of bands at Prairie View A&M. “We have taken the charge of making our students aware of what they do well and areas that they can improve on. ESPN [The Undefeated] gives us a platform to use as a measuring stick, not against others but ourselves.

“To all of our fellow band directors, this has been one of the most humbling years for all of us [to] continue to do great work and we hope to see you in the future. This could not be possible without the support of the marching students, band staff, alumni, administration and student body, thank you all for your support.”

HBCU band newcomer The ROAR Marching Band of Florida Memorial claimed the top ranking in Division II because it earned the top spot for musicality and drum major, and in the top three for percussion.

“I can’t say it enough how grateful we are to be recognized nationally by The Undefeated and by our peers, particularly so early in our existence. What makes The ROAR Marching Band experience dynamic is the collaboration between the students and the staff in the creation and development of our halftime performances,” said Richard Beckford, director of university bands at Florida Memorial.

“More importantly is the intentionality in our efforts to create a student-centered band culture that focuses on providing amazing experiences for our band members — and our earnest respect and concern for our students’ time, educational growth, social and emotional health, and the effort they invest in showing up and practicing daily. We inspire our students to own their excellence. The result becomes a motivated and inspired student that is more likely to exert more effort and that will perform more enthusiastically.”

The rankings, conducted by two six-person panels of current and retired band directors and choreographers from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), evaluate bands on musicality, drill and design, percussion, auxiliary and drum majors. Judges critique the bands’ routines, then provide feedback to the programs.

“It is a distinguished honor to be recognized by your musical peers as one of the best bands in America. Not only does our panel consist of present and retired HBCU and Division I and II band directors and choreographers, but every adjudication category always has a completely different set of expert adjudicators,” said Don P. Roberts, executive consultant for The Undefeated HBCU Band Rankings. “For instance, if a band was selected No. 1 in musicality for a poll, there is a completely different set of music educators that adjudicate the next poll. In summary, if a band is top five in various categories and repeats top five in the same categories for the next poll, it magnifies the extraordinary level of excellence in that band program, because their exemplary consistency for greatness has been recognized by two completely different panels.

“Fans and directors need to also understand that our rankings are not based on the history of your band program. Every show is evaluated separately and not based on lifetime achievement awards. Our evaluations are based on individual shows throughout the season, and not what you did last year or last month. Just because you were top 10 for one particular ranking doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to be in the next one. With our rankings, every band has a chance to be top 10 every month.”

The Norfolk State Spartan Legion dropped one spot in the rankings to No. 5, but the Spartan Legion finished in the top three in auxiliary, drum majors and musicality. Alabama A&M Marching Maroon and White Band and Texas Southern Ocean of Soul earned their first appearances in the band rankings this season at No. 6 and No. 10, respectively.

“It all starts with our dedicated students. They, along with our staff, are flexible and focused. We work hard and have fun every day. It is truly an honor to be ranked by proven professionals,” said Carlton Wright, director of bands at Alabama A&M. “Other than size and playing loudly, some fans don’t appreciate the total musicianship of HBCU bands. It’s great to know that we are doing the right things to earn this honor from our peers!”

In the Division II rankings, former No. 1 Benedict College dropped one spot to No. 2, Kentucky State Thorobred Express jumped to No. 3. Fort Valley State Blue Machine Marching Band made its first appearance on the rankings and took home the No. 1 spot in pictures, drill and design.

“The Blue Machine Marching Band is honored to make the top 10 HBCU bands for Division II. Here at FVSU, we promote the tenets of hardworking, discipline, accountability and professionalism daily,” said Jonathan Thompson, director of bands at Fort Valley State University. “Our selection exemplifies the commitment of our band students, staff and administration.”

Top 10 HBCU Division I Bands

Overall Rank Auxiliary Drum Major Musicality Percussion Pictures, Drill and Design
1. +9Prairie View A&M University 1 1 5 3 1
2. -1North Carolina A&T University 6 4 4 1 10
3. +3Southern University 4 6 2 11 2
4. +1Bethune-Cookman University 16 2 1 2 5
5. -1Norfolk State University 3 3 3 10 11
6. Alabama A&M University 8 12 10 8 4
7. -4Jackson State University 12 9 6 5 7
8. -1Tennessee State University 11 7 7 7 15
9. Hampton University 5 16 13 12 14
10. Texas Southern University 7 10 12 18 13

Auxiliary

  1. Prairie View A&M University
  2. Morgan State University
  3. Norfolk State University
  4. Southern University
  5. Hampton University

Drum Major

  1. Prairie View A&M University
  2. Bethune-Cookman University
  3. Norfolk State University
  4. North Carolina A&T University
  5. Florida A&M University

Musicality

  1. Bethune-Cookman University
  2. Southern University
  3. Norfolk State University
  4. North Carolina A&T University
  5. Prairie View A&M University

Percussion

  1. North Carolina A&T University
  2. Bethune-Cookman University
  3. Prairie View A&M University
  4. Florida A&M University
  5. Jackson State University

Pictures, Drill and Design

  1. Prairie View A&M University
  2. Southern University
  3. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  4. Alabama A&M University
  5. Bethune-Cookman University
Prairie View A&M University
North Carolina A&T
Southern

Top 10 HBCU Division II Bands

Overall Rank Auxiliary Drum Major Musicality Percussion Pictures, Drill and Design
1. +9 Florida Memorial University 15 1 1 3 13
2. -1 Benedict College 13 6 3 2 5
3. +3 Kentucky State University 2 15 5 8 2
4. +1 Winston-Salem State University 7 3 4 6 6
5. -1 Miles College 4 7 7 5 4
6. Allen University 11 9 25 1 7
7. -4 Fort Valley State University 17 10 8 23 1
8. -1 Tuskegee University 3 5 19 15 16
9. Virginia State University 12 3 13 16 10
10. Albany State University 8 24 2 7 20

Auxiliary

  1. Clark Atlanta University
  2. Kentucky State University
  3. Tuskegee University
  4. Miles College
  5. Morehouse College

Drum Major

  1. Florida Memorial University
  2. Virginia State University
  3. Winston-Salem State University
  4. Savannah State University
  5. Tuskegee University

Musicality

  1. Florida Memorial University
  2. Albany State University
  3. Benedict College
  4. Winston-Salem State University
  5. Kentucky State University

Percussion

  1. Allen University
  2. Benedict College
  3. Florida Memorial University
  4. Fayetteville State University
  5. Miles College

Pictures, Drill and Design

  1. Fort Valley State University
  2. Kentucky State University
  3. Central State University
  4. Miles College
  5. Benedict College
Florida Memorial University
Benedict College
Kentucky State University

Mia Berry is a 2020 graduate of Notre Dame University with a B.A. degree in film, TV and theatre. She is the HBCU reporter for The Undefeated.