Opinion: What I learned on the field with the FAMU marching band
His pride is shaken, but "I love that band and its people, past, present and future," former band member Dereyck Moore writes.
November 24th, 2011
03:10 PM ET

Opinion: What I learned on the field with the FAMU marching band

Editor’s note: Dereyck Moore is currently employed by NBA digital and previously worked for CNN Digital. Moore is a graduate of Florida A&M University. He was a member of the FAMU Marching 100 band from 1990 to 1994

By Dereyck Moore, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The tragic death of Robert Champion, drum major for the famed Florida A&M University marching band, weighs on me. I never knew Robert personally. I never shook his hand or carried on a conversation with this young man. But his death has touched me as if I had lost a member of my immediate family - because I have.

I was a member of the FAMU band 20 years ago, and the news of his death traveled among my band mates, through those who marched before me and long after I was gone. It’s sad and shocking to hear his death might be related to hazing by members of the band.

I have always looked upon my beloved FAMU Marching 100 band and many other historically black college and university - HBCU - marching bands with pride. That pride has been shaken to its core by the investigation into the death of a member of our family, my family - a young man just like me.

As a junior in high school in New Orleans, I was a percussionist in the marching band and I knew I wanted to continue the experience. The decision came down to two HBCU band schools - Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.

While both had reputable communications programs - my intended major - Southern University was the obvious, easy choice. I knew the school, loved its band and had dozens of friends going there. The family history at the institution was strong. My father was a member of the university’s band.

Children grow to know, love and idolize HBCU marching bands just as young athletes look upon the NBA or the NFL. It may sound foreign to some, but for an aspiring African-American high school musician, the college of choice can boil down to one core attribute: Whose band is the best?

Many other bands were good, but the FAMU Marching 100 was great. I aspired to be involved in the synchronized steps and well-tuned notes that made half-time the most important part of any game. To see them perform was such a different experience that I knew that's where I wanted to go. That was the uniform I wanted to wear, even if it was 385 miles from home, even if I lacked scholarship money and saw out-of-state tuition costs staring me in the face. I had to be in that number.

After being accepted, I knew I was among an elite class of musicians that practiced and performed like no others. But as an incoming freshmen and auditioning percussionist, I was “shaken off the tree.” That meant I didn't make the first cut on my instrument for the season’s first game, and would have to challenge other players for a spot in the ranks.

Eventually, I challenged a fellow freshman and won. I was rewarded with a position on the field.

Two months later, I was chosen as rank sergeant, which led a team of percussionists onto the field during in the season's final performance against rival Bethune-Cookman University. I had done it.

With sweat and tear, I had achieved my goal. Many members of the Marching 100 could tell you a similar story of their determination to not give up, to be dedicated to the undertaking, to have the fortitude to make it on the field. The band's rich traditions of hard work and dedication preceded me, and it was up to me to uphold the strength of that reputation, to carry it forward every time we took the field.

As a member of the FAMU band, I marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for President Clinton's 1993 inaugural parade and signed autographs after performing two halftime shows for the citizens of the Bahamas. I was thrilled to excited audiences with our signature mix of precision, musicianship and well-crafted showmanship. We practiced for hours with attention to every detail. Work ethic was a key takeaway from the hundreds of thousands of applauding fans and miles of travel in between.

Out of the adversity blossomed self-esteem and improved confidence. Nothing was inconceivable or unachievable. If I could make it as a member of the Marching 100, I could do anything.

For an 18-year-old African-American male growing up in a society where there are more of us in penal institutions than in institutions of higher learning, the "I can do anything" ideal is worth its weight in gold.

Based on my own experience, I'm sure Robert believed there was nothing he couldn't accomplish. That Robert became a leader, a drum major, is a testament to his will and determination. He was among the best of the best musicians, but rose even higher. I pray for this young man's family and their struggle to move forward.

I love that band and its people, past, present and future. I was taught to love it not through repeated beatings or adverse physical punishment, but through the examples of great musicians to my left and right.

When attending FAMU games, I'm glad to see old section leaders, staff members and band mates, even if we weren’t close while we were actually in the band. On sight, we greet each other as old relatives at a family reunion. I hug their kids and they hug mine. Every member of the Marching 100 is family based on the bond we built working our hardest to achieve a common goal.

The death of Robert Champion represents a loss of a part of all of us - all of us who wished to better ourselves by becoming a part of a greater whole. We may no longer wear the uniform and march in step with the band, but long after we have gone, we hear the drum beat of the ideals we learned. I will hear it the rest of my life.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dereyck Moore.

Posted by
Filed under: Black in America • Education • What we think
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. cecil


    dont acknowledge what happened and how to fix the hazing problems.

    deflect the attention to how the band actually helps BLACK people, not just people.

    could have helped that guy who died.

    December 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SGT Mac

    Its not my brothers shooting at me but the Iraq people.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SGT Mac

    I hope you all see this racist pig responses. I don't clean toilets girl. I train soldiers black, white, orange, it don't matter. So you are sadly mistaken. I hope you have a good night and you need to do your research. I only hope you say what you say on here to someone's face. I've been shot at many times so it makes me no never mind. If you are as hard as you THINK you are, go ahead and say this trashy stuff in a face of a man with color. I hope and pray that you are not near anybody that is black. I'm afraid for them. You make me feel so much more intelligent than you. RIP Mr Champion.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SGT Mac

    I'm going to say this once. If you you think that you are cool for acting like an ass, then you are sadly mistaken. I am military trained as well. Special Forces. I served in Iraq 3 times. I am still serving in the Army too. If you think you can try to scare you are wrong. That's right I am black!!! You have a big mouth and maybe you need it to be shut for you. I am from the hood. I love see people like you prove my point i preach to my soldiers. If you EVER come across my path, you will never know because I don't associate myself with racist.....(pick a word). You disgust me. My God will deal with you. i will pray for you to be humble. But until then, having being a racist. I am not mad, I'm more just sad. You need Jesus in your life. I'm done discussing this. This article is about the a young man who died because of hazing.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SGT Mac

    Truth and cinman,
    You two are the true definition of ignorance. I have never been so mad that if I were to see you....never mind. You need to watch what you say. As a Black Man, I feel disrespected. I don't even call people that. You to need to get dropped off in the hood and say what you just said. You need psychological help. Do not post anything or I will have your stuff tracked and you will be sorry legally. Yes I know freedom of speech, but it offends someone that law is no more.
    That is all.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • bongiojf

      SGT Mac – I believe those comments have been struck from the discussion. Race has absolutely no relevance in this discussion. Hazing is a problem. Period. President must go. Hazing is a ridiculous "tradition" that adds no value to an organization.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • bongiojf

        My power is getting you all riled up on command!

        December 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cinman

    I also learned that just because you're in college doesn't mean you can't do stupid stuff. (or keep repeating it).

    December 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. QUEN10

    What is the purpose of hazing? Will it help someone get a scholarship? no....Most people get hazed so they can gain respect which is utterly stupid. Whoever killed Champion should be sentenced for Life. I'm glad the band director got fired because he knew about it the hazings. My mom shouldnt have to worry about me getting hazed in the band.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. C. Fitzgerald

    This was a great article. Its even better since I have known the character of the author since elementary school. Same person then, SAME person NOW!!! good job Dereyck!!!

    December 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. TheTruth

    The death of Robert Champion is really tragic on many levels. I hope the his family finds peace and the hazing stops everywhere. As a member of Tau Beta Sigma, the marching band sorority, I must say that to label HBCUs as being the only bands that haze is incorrect. White band haze also. Hazing is wrong but cannot be attributed to one race. I find it really disturbing that Blacks think of themselves with such self-hate caused by ignorance. Please find out the truth before making such incorrect statements.

    November 30, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kelmo

    Mr. Moore, while I do understand that your story was one that did not include hazing that is not the case for many band students of HBCUs. I attend Southern University in BR and often heard band members yelling Bus1 or Bus2 that meant that they had survived walking through a school bus full of band members while being beaten, the higher the number behind the Bus, the severe the beating. If they made it through the bus they would feel a since of pride and be applauded but if they failed they would be mocked. The beatings corresponded with big games or Classics. It seems that this type of hazing is not only at SUBR but also at FAMU. It is time to tell the truth with the band and black sororities. Stop pretending that hazing does not exist. What good is a code if people die or suffer hospital stays or visits? Not only does it happen in HBCUs but also venture to say it occurs in high schools. Time the code was broken and lives saved. No more Bus 1-3.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WIMPY38

    It's sad that it takes a death to know focus on events that have always been happining, no doubt at every college and university throughout, athletics, music, clubs and organizations just to be accepted or whatever reason.

    November 27, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Allison

    FAMU, along with the other HBCUS besides the top ones should be shut down. They have become breeding places for parties, bands, and more parties. There seems to be a great lacking in education and research. I graduated from Columbia in 1988, and can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I received a world class education due to the Ivy Leagues central focus - education.

    November 27, 2011 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Tnmnp

      You are a fool to think parties and hazing occur only at HBCUS. What you need to do is open a newspaper or even use the simple online search engine Google. They must not teach common sense and basic research methods at Ivy League schools. Opening your mouth to situations you clearly know nothing about portray you as an absolute idiot.

      November 28, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • SGT Mac

      Listen Ms Columbia graduate, you cannot shut down a school for a death. If that was the case, many other schools should be shut down as well. I graduated from and HBCU and I gratuated with a 3.79 GPA. You will not shut other schools because of what happend at another school. You migh want revaluate you post and look inside yourself. All of these HBCU's have quality education. If the students choose not to learn then thats on the students. As far as the band thing, I also am a music education graduate as well. Being in the band gave me a great deal of pride. The HBCU bands have saved a lot of people from being on the streets. You my friend have a very close mind. Where did you get you statistics from? We dont party at HBCU's Please get more information before you ASSUME.

      November 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • B WHite

        You brag about receiving a world-class education and a 3.79 GPA and you produce prose as poorly written as this? Spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, sentence structure mistakes... Wow, if that's what a 3.79 GPA gives you at whatever HBCU you attended, you obviously attended the wrong one.

        December 4, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
      • vatoloke

        At least run your spell and grammar checks before bragging about your high GPA in your posts. It makes one really wonder about the quality of your education, no matter the GPA. If you can't write correctly in a public forum, your high GPA means squat.

        December 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terri

      Hazing is everywhere – even at your precious Columbia. Before blacks were allowed in schools like Columbia, FAMU and other HBCUs led the way in providing opportunities for blacks to lead successful lives.

      Schools like FAMU engage in research as well. Since you put a premium on that, familiarize yourself with the many projects our professors and students work on. I feel I received a world -class education when I graduated from FAMU in 1989. As for the emphasis on parties, bands and hazing, perhaps you should stop watching all of those movies on cable, put your world -class Columbia education to work and (since Columbia is about research) do some research of your own.

      November 29, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
      • Fathima

        Man I appreciate your hotesny in everything you say do I'm also a music producer, singer, song writer and it's nice to hear some ons say you don't need the million dollar studios any more! Technology is here to stay and the old days are gone, so bury them and keep living moving on I would love to apply for your e-book on producing. please send me an e-mail to sign up. I would love to send u some of my stuff! All copyrighted under Muboxic Productions. Peace

        April 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • HBCULover

      Awwhhh Allison, still bitter b/c you din't get into a HBCU...LOL

      December 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smiley

      That most ignorant thing I've ever heard!

      December 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • B WHite

      I'm afraid I'm with you on this one. It seems roughly analagous to PSU when everyone turned a blind eye to horrible crimes, all to avoid damaging the money-maker and pride of students, wealthy alumni, and the faculty with a vested interest in seeing the situation continue undisturbed. From the research I've done, in HBCUs, seem to serve the same function as the PSU football program. It's a great recruiting tool, it brings in great amounts of cash to the University, and it's an almost untouchable source of pride for all in the FAMU family. The professionals overseeing the behaviour of the band were lax in enforcing codes of discipline, and in calling police or other authorities when the situation clearly warranted an intervention by police and possibly medical forensicpersonnel I know, I know, why doesn't TPTB see if some of the damage(eg, the death of Champion could have been averted if help were more available) can be adverted in future after HBCUs have a long, hard look at hazing and what place it plays in the modern culture of marching bands. Are they willing to take the hard decisions needed?

      December 4, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Until you have attended an HBCU, you shouldn't form an opinion about whether they should be shut down or not. FYI Florida A&M University an a top HBCU graduating the most blacks in the nation and has been ranked # 1 in Black Enterprise magazine and on Time Magazines top colleges. Do a little research hun before making ignorant statements. People choose to attend HBCU not only because of the educational benefits but also because of the deep cultural meaning behind them. Read up honey, you'll learn something :))

      December 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • Oktay

        Congrats to Mission Viejo High School Marching Band and Color Guard as well! They took 2nd at the 5A State Championships in Fresno this weekend! Way to go Diablos!

        September 14, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Meylinder

        There was this guy who believed very much in true love and dceedid to take his time to wait for his right girl to appear. So he hardened his heart and turned her down cruelly. The guy went on with his life..... still searching for the one but somehow deep inside him, Then,

        September 16, 2012 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. eyesee

    I write with a heavy heart for our fallen brother as do most of those here. I am so profoundly sorry for the family of Mr. Champion in their huge loss of a fine young man. i am also profoundly disappointed in the response, to date, to the incident. Unless I have missed something, the M100 and the FAMU nations reputation has been severely tarnished. Additionally, 4 students have been suspended and a illustrious career is now in tatters. And once again those that would see the FAMU legacy as an outstanding HBCU come to an end have been hugely empowered. And yet the facts of our brothers death as currently known don't support any of this. The OCSD has stated clearly that there was no indication of foul play and the initial autopsy was inconclusive. To me this means our brother surely was not beaten to death as has been reported by some media. There have been no charges filed or suspects announced due to no foul play being alleged. I have to ask was the 'hazing' incidental to the death? Maybe, maybe not, but we currently have a death sentence for the M100 and potentially the university facing us because of a rush to not be the next Penn St. Well guess what. The comparison is still being made. Perhaps the wrong leadership personnel was fired?

    November 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • WIMPY38

      If you're talking about the "illustrious career" of the band director, then you are sorley misinformed. Dr. White has always new hazing and has always turned a blind eye to the situation. First off, the band members GPAs were always under 2.00 and the members usually had to drop out semesters due to academic ineligible. The reason for this is because the band practices up until 12:00 to 1:00 AM at night during weeknights when they should be studying. Not even the football team practices that late and are done 4 hours before the band. The article Mr. Moore writes is touching but he didn't go into one sitiuation where he got hazed or did the hazing. Ususally section leaders are the initiators of hazing in the band because "it's a rite of passage". Dr. Ammons was right in stating enough is enough and the firing of the one person who runs the band.

      November 27, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
      • Andre' Walker

        You need Jesus for all the lies that you just got through telling. I attended FAMU and marched in the marching band and never had practice until 1-2 am in the morning. These all lies made up by you. How do you know about GPA's definitely not something that is discussed in public. How did find you find out all this information or was it made up in your sick mind? Stop it, stop trying to tear down the band. FAMU marching band is the reason why I am so success today. Dr. White is innocent he is being victimized by the system and people like you.

        November 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Smiley

        May I ask how you would possibly know this? Seriously.

        December 3, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rstarr

    Did any of your fellow Klan members go to college?

    November 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. orca17

    This hits close to home. I am a former college band member as well. Growing up in northern Florida, I was well aware of the reputation of the FAMU band, and I had seen them perform. Several of the kids I was in band with in high school went to FAMU and played in the Marching 100. Julian White, the band director at the time of this terrible tragedy, was previously the band director at a rival high school. My own band director was a FAMU graduate. My prayers and sympathy go out to the FAMU family. May this never happen again.

    November 26, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  16. NC

    Why was this self-aggrandizing article published???

    November 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Will

    A "college degree" in "communications" and this imbecile is STILL borderline illiterate! Wow....

    November 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken Dixon

      As a writer, I respectfully disagree. The article is quite well-written and a good read.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      I also disagree. The article is well-written.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  18. john

    Well said!

    November 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Frank

    I thought people that weren't in the band hazed people who are in the band. Now I find out that there is inner band hazing. What has this world come to.

    November 26, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • B WHite

      I honestly don't believe that there is an elite, tightly-knit organization in the world that would allow outsiders to participate in the hazing and/or discipline of a member of the 'group'. Think of a platoon of Navy Seals allowing a few grease monkeys from the motor pool to beat the crap out of a Seal with other Seals present. Ain't gonna happen in this lifetime. It DOES lead to some awkward and possibly illegal incidents of obstruction of justice when the group of 'the brotherhood of insiders' believe that they, and they alone, are responsible for internal discipline of their unit.

      December 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  20. john

    I'm disgusted that the author of this piece didn't mention a word about hazing. All your accomplishments you're so proud of, and self esteem for "making it" isn't worth a thing if you can't talk about the truth about what goes on in your code of silence. You should be ashamed...a young kid is dead and you didn't even have the decency to talk about why he is dead. Disgusted!

    November 26, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • smirk

      I totally agree i was waiting to read about some insight into the hazing but alas nothing, and so again the code of silence is deployed again. These guys spend incredible amount of time and dedication to their craft but at the end of the day so what!

      November 26, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  21. J.T.

    I do not like the fact the author mentions that for some African-American students, their school of choice is based on who has a better band. From day one, we have honed the importance of a college education (not band experience). This has served us well, and all three of my kids go to Ivy League schools. Keep the focus on education, not so heavily on extra-curriculars...

    November 26, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • batjones

      JT – With all due respect to your focus on education, the author stated that he wanted to major in communications and was an aspiring musician. He stated that a college of choice can boil down to a school's band – a factor that seems perfectly appropriate for an aspiring musician. The richness of educational experience, both in the class and outside the class, should be considered for all applicants to a University. Cheers

      November 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • MashaSobaka

      I hope you feel the same way about athletic scholarships.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • rojer

      No one cares where your kids go to school. There are plenty of schools that may be more appropriate for a particular kid than an overpriced ivy education. Just maybe the kid has an interest in music?

      November 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • retphxfire

      I don't think he ever meant to suggest that the band was more important then education, but like most students he was looking for that extra that would help him decide which college to attend. For some its sports, for others its location...you have a highly inflated opinion of Ivy League, some of our greatest educators are from none-Ivy league schools. Try Stanford or Univ of Chicago, Duke Univ are all great schools not in the 'League'.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.T.

      Hi All,
      Thanks for engaging in discourse around this topic. I did not mean to brag about my children, but I believe they are at Ivy League schools because of their intense focus on education. Yes, they were involved in extra-curriculars (even music) but their 24/7 job was succeeding in math, science and english. While Stanford, UChicago and Duke are wonderful schools, Harvard, Yale and Princeton are the best schools in the country.

      November 27, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
      • Dave Goldberg

        Who cares, there are no jobs for any of them anyway. Now a days most important aspect to college education isn't where you go, it's to keep your costs low. If an Ivy League school is going to give you a free ride, then go for it. But if you have to go into debt for it, no way. Take the scholarship to any school that will give you one and come out of school debt free.

        November 27, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
      • TDM1979

        Stanford is ranked higher than most of the Ivy League schools.

        December 12, 2011 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
  22. Mack

    I am an alumni of FAMU. I am first sorry for the family of Mr. Champion. This was a tragedy that could have been avoided. If you attended FAMU or were an employee at FAMU...we all knew about the hazing that was taking place in the band. It was only a matter of time before this was bound to happen. What is it in our culture that associates beating someone with a paddle, cain, etc...is the way to determine that they should be a part of a particular organization? I always challenge folks to go back and research the history of their organization and they will find that their revered founders never did these things. This will be a wake up call to all universities in how they oversee their bands and greek organizations.

    November 26, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Couldn't have been said better.

      November 26, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  23. C.Mo

    This blog is amazing. I was never in a band but I was surrounded by the culture of black college marching bands all my life. My father was a member of Southern's band and I am a proud FAMU alum. Unfortunately, it takes a situation like this to break a culture of hazing. I'm constantly praying for Robert Champion's family and FAMU's future.

    November 26, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  24. Mark

    I also was a member of my college marching band. It was a wonderful experience and I was able to travel across the country, show pride for my U, and meet incredible people. And yes, there was some hazing. But it is not just a band problem, or a HBCU problem. There is hazing in mostly White fraternities, in branches of our Armed Forces, and in some pro sports leagues. Perhaps it's a male problem?
    But I applaud the author, and the other young people who strive toward a goal and learn teamwork, pride, and determination through marching band. And then there is the appreciation of the arts and musicianship.
    To try and say it's "thug culture" is ridiculous, or to belittle college students for wanting to be part of a marching band. Sounds like sour grapes to me.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • chefdugan

      I thought this guy was going to tell us something interesting. Instead he doesn't seem to be able to start a sentence without an "I". I did this, I did that, I felt this. The hazing was real, the death was real, he, on the other hand, sounds like a commercial for saccharin.

      November 26, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      Chefdugan, when you read a headline containing the words "what I learned," you might safely assume that what follows will be a first-person account. And as you expressed your disdain for this personal account, you seem to miss the irony in doing so while writing about what 'you' think. Your own first word is... "I."

      November 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
      • RLL

        Thank you Jimbo! My exact sentiments.

        November 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  25. L Johnson

    I find it curious that the author does NOT address whether or not he was hazed during his time in the band. He doesn't need to say itbecause we all know what that answer is.

    It talks about his glorious experiences but not about the fact that a student should not risk their life to be in a band. We're talking about a halftime show and parades.

    Even a gang member can write about the great lessons that gangs taught them.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gifted

      Understand that this had nothing to do with him trying to be in the band. Obviously he was already a member, and a drum major. It's not the band's fault as a whole, but certain individuals make certain decisions.

      November 26, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  26. Gerald Brown

    Only a frank, honest discussion about hazing at FAMU and a determination to end the practice on campus will make this right. I'm not ready to rule out a 1 or 2 year suspension for the band. I would have thought the Kappa 5 hazing incident would have been the catalyst to enforce an end to the practice, but unfortunately the lessons of that episode have been lost on the current student body.

    I never attempted to join an organization that had rites of passage, but I watched as many friends did. If I could write an open letter to those who did, I would tell them I worried about their well-being during their pledge period. I watched GPAs plummet as sleep-deprived pledgees slept in class. I noticed the busted lips, the black eyes, the limping. I hid people out, looking for a bit of refuge, or helped out in other ways. I didn't understand why you did it. You didn't have to go through anything to call me your brother, why did you have to go through all that to get someone else to?

    November 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mp3trojan

      @Gerald Brown. Nothing has changed at least in the NE Texas college area I live in. I work in retail home improvment and saw the kids come in afer rush this fall. One that sticks with me was a young black man whom had been severly hazed. Beat up and branded like cattle. I asked him simply,"Why?" He responded with "Pride, It was worth it." I then asked "Worth what?" He replied with, "I get much respect now." So don't blame the universities or the fraternity/sorority for this. The kids go into this knowing "good 'n hell well" what's gonna happen. Who don't know that to be a "Q", you have to be branded and stand in line to take an ass whippin'? The one who stands the longest in the beating line gets the most respect. If I was to guess the outcome, Robert Champion will be found to have an unrelated, underlying health problem, and that the initiation triggered or aggravated it. If you want to stop hazing....STOP PLEDGING TO THE ONES WHO DO!

      November 26, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  27. The Truth

    For all of those who doubted the TRUTH about Dr. White please read the letter from his attorney.




    November 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  28. LMD

    As an alumni of the university, I agree with the above article. I was never a member of the 100 but hearing about his death hit us all like a ton of bricks. FAMU has always been a university that had such a sense of family or "FAMUly" as we often say. None of us condone hazing & none of us believe it's ok. 

    However, saying the president should be removed is a stretch. How is it possible I should be removed for something I may have known nothing about? Kids are dying everyday to gang violence & no president has stopped it... so they all should have been removed? The issue here isn't the university. The issue is HAZING! No it is not just at FAMU... No it is not just at HBCU's... It's a problem that needs to be addressed nationwide. Also, the Orlando county sheriffs office said they "believe" hazing was a factor but the coroner has yet to complete the autopsy & give a final cause of death. So before we all jump on the bandwagon to crucify a university.... Take a step back and first pray for the family of Robert Champion & then wait for results. *NoI will not respond to follow up comments*

    November 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • amused123

      Yes the President should resign or be removed. He was either unaware of the hazing (in which case is so out of touch, he is not competent to lead) or chose to ignore them by not following though with complaints or concerns (in which case he is culpable.) If fostered a culture such that it got out of hand and cost this young mans his life. The band director should not be last person fired. Quite frankly, I suspect the band director might have been powerless to do anything. Sad that a young leader with a bright future ahead of him all because bullying, plain and simple.

      November 26, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunny 62

      What a terrible thing to have happened...but kids want to belong...we can hope that this never happens again, but until those in charge, those who knew about it, or suspected this was going on....step up and do something....then Universitys will continue to turn their heads so their University will not look bad.....Well people if you know about it and did nothing then you are as much to blame as the kids that did it.....If you suspected it and did nothing, then you are just as guilty.....If it was going on when you attended the University, and excepted it as part of passage then you are to blame also....Untill we stop turning blind eyes to what is wrong in the University then it can never be changed and prohibited from happening again.....Penn State University did the same things for years also, they were a proud, do things the right way University......but some were turning away while terriable things were happening and now they have fallen.....I hope other sCHOOLS LEARN BEFORE IT HAPPENS TO THEM!!!...Don't look the other way, you might save a life if you stand up and report it to Police.....or many years of others going through something terriable!!....

      November 26, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Tharmon

      News reports in the Orlando area (I was there for the game) have indicated that he was kicked and punched along the length of the charter bus because he dropped his mace during the halftime performance. Students are talking about what happened, but the story has since been removed the station's website.

      As a FAMU alum, I am quick to defend by alma mater, but in this case, the proof is in the pudding. The university has had 2 lawsuits totaling 2.3 million dollars under the leadership on Julian White and the 30 members were removed from the band the week prior to the Orlando game. If you don't think hazing is the cause, then perhaps you should explain to this young man's parents exactly what happened.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  29. tare

    I guess everybody has to aspire to something – even if it is a completely useless thing like a marching band. Marching bands hardly qualify as musicians. So tell me what special talent does somebody in a marching band have?!! I marched in the Cherry Blossom Festival when I was in HS and can testify that anyone can learn to march in a band. No special talent is needed, especially WRT music! OK, hard work is needed, but why bother wasted the time and effort on something that will never get you anywhere or really accomplish anything. I mean it's OK for HS kids but college is supposed to train you for your future, not a dead end like marching bands!

    November 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      For you to comment like that, you must have a sad life...too bad there is no rehab for your stupidity.

      November 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      Awwww, someone got his feelings hurt, probably because he was told he wasn't good enough, so now he has to bash marching band people.

      November 25, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.West

      Sir you must have marched for sorry organization. The band which I auditioned for, made, AND composed beautiful music for matters to alot of high ranking ppl and organizations worldwide, such as

      Pres Barack Obama
      French Bicentennial Bastille Day Parade, 1989
      Pres Bill J Clinton,
      Superbowls 3, 5, 9, 39, 41,

      and much more. The FAMU band has produced more doctors, lawyers, professionals, etc than any organization on FAMU's campus. You cannot hold an entire band responsible for the actions of 10 to 15 idiots who want to play the role of murderer.

      And for the record, NO I was NOT hazed to be in the band. Quite the opposite. I had some of the best musical instruction in America, and everything that I learned I pass it on to young aspiring musicians.

      I agree, what happened to Robert is pure madness and he did not deserve to die like someone's damn animal. But, comment such as yours will not bring him back to life and are a great insult to all innocent parties involved. Buffoon. Learn to read and investigate before you speak idiot.

      November 26, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • cnjpe67

      Tare, what a dopey comment. Aside from the military, what possibly could prepare you more for a career than to receive elite training in how to function and excel in a challenging, high pressure, tight functioning environment? You missed the whole concept. I'd hire one of these kids in a heartbeat. In fact, if I was handed a folder with two resumes in it for the same job, yours and one of these kids from a marching band, I swear on a bible I'd throw yours out.

      November 26, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunny 62

      obviously you are not a musician......It takes years and great talent to be a part of any marching band......You do not know what you are talking about.....you say you marched in a band in HS....what did you do carry the drums for the drummer.....because unless you went through years of music lessons and hours of learning the different steps to a marching and performing band.....YOU DID NOT BELONG TO A MARCHING BAND.........YOU LIE!!!

      November 26, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Althea

      Hazzing is a problem in colleges – universities all over the United States. I do not favor the practice of it but it seemed to started in some of the most prestige C's & U's. It is just like some who find wrong in a practice among a few and scrutinize the whole marching band. This sounds so..........typical among those who have a single eye and punishing people / persons who are innocent. Name the people who are guilty, not the whole team. There is bad and good in all people be it creed, color, nationality or genders. This is something the writer of this article should think about. Sorry for his friend but hazzing did not start in FAMU marching band or among African Americans. Morn your friend, but please be real.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Widmer

      You are ignorant of the teamwork it takes for one of these ensembles to perform well; either you are lying or your band wasn't very good.

      November 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • donno

      If marching band is "useless", I certainly hope you don't watch ANY sports or play ANY games or watch ANY movies or shows or consume ANY other entertainment. EVER.

      Here's why: Marching band is athletic, musical, disciplined, fun to practice, fun to perform, fun to watch, and cooperative. It requires and teaches anything you could learn in sports, but in addition to that it helps study music, which has great value to the brain. And basically, it's fun. If there's no value in having healthy, athletic, musical fun, then...I'd have to agree with the other responses.

      Yours is a sad, sad world.


      Mr. Moore, thank you for the article.

      November 26, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Olga

    Read your entire article and I was really touched by it. It's hard to believe that this type of hazing is going on in our schools. I pray for this young man's family to help them get through their pain and grief.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Alexander

    I was had a scholarship to attend a HBCU Band in the 70's: Alcorn State in Lorman Miss. I choose Alcorn because my older sister went there many years before. I had friends there in the Band looking forward to my attendance but after weeks of "Soul Searching"; I went into the Army! Looking back today, I am glad I did. Doing 4 years there would not have "sent me around the world" or gave me the job opportunities I found living where I am today after leaving the Army. We as a culture "fall in love" with the rituals of life to think that's the way it's always been so to "fit in" we go along to get in. This article was not about the Drum Major's death in so much it's about his reflection in the Band. This article should have been about a death from "hazing". By the way; during my first few weeks in the Army; I saw a form of "hazing" among fellow Service members known as a "Blanket Party". During Boot camp, one of our fellow soldiers could not keep up with the rest of us doing drills. The whole squad was punished by our Sergeant because of him. That night; they covered him with a Blanket while he was sleep and they beat him. I didn't punch him because I was shocked at what was happening. I kept all my skills up so that would not happen to me. The known "truth" among fellow soldiers is; anyone who fails in training, will fail on the battlefield and that guy can cost "you your life" ! The guy eventually was released because he didn't have it in him to be in the Army. One of my favorite movies is "Drum Line"; I was a purcussionist..

    November 25, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  32. Tallahassee Man

    A few points to make.
    First, author I recognize the achievements you speak of but you didn't mention if hazing was part of your experience at FAMU. Can you respond to this?
    Second, race is not the issue here. I see HBCU several times in the posts above. FAMU may be HBCU but let's get post-racial.
    Third, my children are in high school band now and are considering their college opportunities. Please tell me why they should consider FAMU. Take this point as an opportunity to tell us all about the good things FAMU has to offer.
    Fourth, take this tragedy and learn, adjust, change, and grow.
    Fifth, I love the FAMU band and their amazing showmanship. Keep the spirit but fix this underlying issue.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rattler1996

      I am a graduate of Florida A&M University. I did not march in the 100, but I have enduring respect, pride and appreciation for who and what they are and represent. I have been troubled by the issue of hazing. Having had friends and family participate in the 100, and having seen the reputation of my alma mater marred by incidents by the band and Greek-lettered organizations, it continues to be a concern. This recent loss of life compels us as alumni to demand accountability, but also to question the culture. Perhaps it is not solely a Black College problem. However, for me, it might be better to treat it as one. The Marching 100 has a strong alumni association. The same can be said for other HBCU bands and Black sororities and fraternities. Ultimately, I hold these organizations responsible for the culture that has evolved. In a large part, it is these organizations that many people see as the definition of the HBCU experience. Many do not value the history, values, and quality of education that have long been the true value of black college education. So many people are attracted to HBCUs for less substantive reasons. This is where the issue must focus. Drumline does not completely tell the HBCU story. It is a black college marching band story.

      Personally, I could have marched in the 100. In fact I took a few music courses in college (from Sarge and Bing) and had marched in high school. I shied away from the commitment, due to the level of sacrifice. The hazing was not a major consideration, though the reputation did exist. I was focused on my education. And eventually, didn't want to give up the free time which was often filled with partying, as any other college student. But my experiences were diverse, including several campaigns volunteering on and off campus. I also graduated in four years, a feat that is uncommon for students who march 4 years in the band. The best students among them only march a few years. Just as in the streets, those who are not living for the right purpose, find it easier to do wrong in the name of the meaningless occupations they acquire. Some band members soil the integrity of the 100 more willingly once they define themselves by it in exclusion to being a student or graduate.

      November 26, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Tharmon

      FAMU is a wonderful university that encourages excellence and achievement.

      As a high school senior, I had a partial scholarship to Stanford and a full ride to Auburn, UFl and quite a few small liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. Due to medical complications with my mother's health, I had to stay in-state. So my guidance counselor, a FAMU alum, encouraged me to go their for orientation to see if I liked it.

      I didn't. I thought is was a bit too ghetto and wanted to be at a more diverse campus. My mom ended up speaking with the President during that visit and pleaded her case. He offered me a full ride on the spot. It was a done deal. She liked his sincerity and genuine compassion. It made her feel as if I'd be taken care of at FAMU.

      I ended going and fell in love with it. As students we were constantly exposed to successful alumni and powerful black leaders. Excellence through achievement was not an option, it was mandatory. I majored in Chemical Engineering and formed lifelong friendships with fellow E-School colleagues. It was a family, a nice community of individuals who saw the collective as being more important than the individual. From dorm mothers who were protective of us, to campus faculty who were no nonsense in our academics, we had no choice but to perform well.

      FAMU preached excellence. I left there to get an MBA and ultimately a PhD in Business Administration and now I am a University Professor. FAMU instilled a pursuit of excellence in me that was much greater than what I received at home. Many of my friends are doing extremely well and all will agree that FAMU jumpstarted our success. The Rattler nation is very well networked and linked. I wouldn't trade it for the world! Strike, Strike and Strike again.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Marching Band Alum

      We have always been taught that Marching Band was the Major Leagues for band, there was no higher point for most of us.
      Music is what opened the door to programs that we would usually not be afforded the opportunity to attend, not because of academics but because of money.
      We were always talked to about academics, and I don't see why people think that you HAVE TO have bad grades just to march.
      You don't get good unless you put time in, just like football and etc, the only difference is that FB players are usually not majoring in anything hard. Usually Business Admin, or etc.
      Your grades suffer if you want them to. When I went to a game I brought my books and ipod to study on the bus rides, when i got home at 12 am I cracked open my books and studied. I never missed a class my freshmen year unless the band was out of town.
      Use band as a way to get some where you may not be able to afford. Not as a end all be all... and tough it out because its free money.
      There is an option in everything. You can say NO to hazing and not do it... you may feel like an outsider or etc but theres an option and no one forces you to take part in it.
      This was a very sad incident but it also comes down to educating students on making choices. You think that if they suspend a band for 2 years it won't still be around... it won't start back up...
      Truth is HAZING happens EVERYWHERE, at IVY League Schools, at HBCUs, and PWC's.. in the army, football.. EVERYWHERE...
      Tell me I'm lying.... I'm not... this is EMBEDDED in our culture... Comes in the form of Pride and a sense of belonging...

      November 27, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  33. Famuan1997

    I am a proud graduate of FAMU (SBI). While the events over the last are unacceptable; to say shut down the band, will not resolve any issues. Shut down he band, then go ahead and cancel the entire football season. I say charge the entire bus of students and the bus driver: people will speak up and the truth will come out.

    The writer of this article expressed his personal exprience with the band. What people need to realize is kids today are a whole new breed. They have a very laxed regard for others. This young man was aband member for 6 years. I am certan, he hazed a few of his fellow band members as well.

    I love my alma mater, I stand behind my alma mater and I believe Dr. Ammons will do the right thing!

    November 24, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Jimmy Hernandez

    Dereyck and the FAMU family,

    I'm so sorry that all of this has transpired, of course deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Champion.

    Regardless of who is at the helm, I am certain the Marching 100 and it's legacy will live on...it will remain strong. To other readers who may not be aware of this history of this program and what it has done for programs like the one I was a member of, it truly is a great honor and an incredible accomplishment to march with this program.

    For me, marching in an HBCU band to this date remains the greatest decision of my young life. It taught me pride – the true sense of working for something you believe in and seeing the fruits of your labor and dedications.

    I'm certain the Marching 100 will live on.


    Jimmy, former member of the "Pride," the Marching Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman University.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  35. tonyh

    Dude, yes, while the recent tragedy at FAMU is cause for pause, and as currently my heart goes out to all the families affected...please don't loose sight of the fact that you, Mr. Moore, were in a band... one more time, a band. I feel you're using this article to grandstand on mediocre accomplishments. Why couldn't you have achieved the same–even greater accomplishments from work in the classroom, or a commitment to helping the environment...or having tried out for the football team...the very team the band plays for. You could have written something better than this, i'm sure. This is just a vanity article and should be reserved for your school's alumni magazine, not cnn.com.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Molly

      Who are you to judge what the author chose to commit himself to in college and deem it mediocre? You don't know what else he accomplished in college, but the point of the article is that being in the marching band made a large impact on his life and influenced the person he became. Sorry if the band isn't good enough for you, but it is for many people.

      November 24, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
      • Molly

        I guess the person who I was replying to deleted their comment? Now this just looks funny here. Oh well.

        November 25, 2011 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
      • Paul

        I am so proud to have Dr. Walter Kimbrough as a Brother and Friend. I met Dr. Kimbrough in 1989 as an undergraduate sedtunt. I admired him then and he has truly served as a role model for excellent leadership. He has a wealth of knowledge and he is truly concern about his sedtunts. He is truly deserving of the recognition. All the best, Bro. Walter.

        April 18, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  36. Great power

    Great sentiments but the tribute should be the young man's life not to the organization itself. I know as alums many of you are shook to the core but to wax poetic about your experiences when his body is not yet buried is a bit misguided.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      very well said!

      November 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  37. F. Off

    Agreed. What a stupid band. If people are dying over such STUPID rituals, then it is NOT worth it. These guys need to learn there is a right way of doing things. This is NOT the right way. Shut it down for good.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  38. bongiojf

    If this band member participated in hazing all those years ago and said nothing and did nothing to change teh environment then he is just as culpable in this act as much as anyone else. The University President fired the director but the President himself should stepdown for allowing the hazing practices to continue. Hazing among the band has been no secret especially among the faculty, and students. It would be disingenuous for the Presidnet to deny any knowledge of hazing. He is just as culpable for standing by and allowing it to continue.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jw11

      I can't agree with you more about the president needed to step down or be fired also!

      November 25, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Rattler1997

      I agree, I think Ammons should resign. After the 2 band hazing awsuits in 2001 and 2004, Julian White should have been gone then! For Ammons to let him stay around makes him just as culpable.

      It's time for new leadership at FAMU.

      November 26, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  39. Disappointed

    I wonder what the young drum major learned? Work hard, work your way up! Get hazed!
    This isn't the first time this has happened....and now another family is affected. Shut it down and send a message that thug culture is wrong.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neisha

      Thug culture? Don't make it seem as though hazing is apart of one culture. Yes this is an tragic event that happened but it definitely could've happened at any other university. Realistically there is no guaranteed way to prevent hazing. There is no way for the band directors, nor the faculty and staff (including the President) to prevent hazing. They can make attempts to control it but for those who've been to college know college life=no rules. In no way does this event reflect the character of the university.

      November 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Great power

        There is a guaranteed way to way to prevent hazing, don't allow it in your band. I marched in a top tier HBCU band over 20 years ago and we didn't have hazing. 20 years later they still don't have hazing. When it's so ingrained in the culture of your organization then the whole thing needs to be disbanded and you start over. It's a sad commentary when a band is called soft because hazing is not allowed in it's organization.

        November 24, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
      • Amanda

        Yes, it could have happened at any other university, and at any other university you can call hazing a "thug culture".

        November 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  40. F. Off

    What a stupid article. The issue here is the hazing. Did that build character? This band at FAMU has been known for their horrible hazing practices for a very long time. Get real loser. If your stupid band is killing people as part of the "learning tradition" then it needs to be shut down.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Paul Willson

    All university extras band sports debating & dinning clubs should be banned if the University or any of it6s com ponents get 1 cent of Federakl.state monies. We need seriuous focuised students not atheletes and effete students who whine when tyheyh can not find a job that suits thgem , Make them work HARD and FORBID student protest conformity in society is required njhoit l.iberal communist free thinking,.

    November 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  42. mjl89

    Making this band as a freshman was no simple task. I concur with the author. Leaving a New Orleans public school and joining the Florida A&M band was very much like re-learning how to walk. But despite the challenges, it was worth it.

    November 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |