Semester of Graduation

Spring 2019


Master of Music (MM)


Music Education

Document Type



This study investigated the development of marching band traditions at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as told through the rivalry between Southern University (SU) and Jackson State University (JSU). Marching bands at HBCUs developed a distinct style where pageantry is a priority. These bands have similar pre- and post- game traditions, and an overall spirit of fierce competition. This study is an oral history account taken from interviews with influential band directors from these programs. Band directors from JSU include Dowell Taylor, Paul Adams, Lewis Liddell, and Lowell Hollinger. These band directors all have established reputations as innovators and men with a storehouse of knowledge about the “Sonic Boom of the South” marching band. Band directors from SU include Paul Adams (taught at both universities), Lawrence Jackson, Nathan Haymer, and Kedric Taylor, for similar reasons.

This study includes brief histories of each band, including lesser-known insights from directors. Interviews reveal combinations of happenstance and careful planning that birthed traditions such as the famed pre-game “zero quarter” and post-game “fifth quarter” rituals that are now commonplace at HBCU football games. I triangulated stories through multiple accounts, and patterns emerged surrounding the intense rivalry between the programs at JSU and SU. I also investigated stylistic differences between bands in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), as well as the reasons behind these differences. Geographic positioning and cultural differences appeared to be the most relevant causes. Finally, I explored trends from the advent of YouTube and social media. Participants expressed both joy and frustration about these technologies, much of which relates to the uniquely fan-based and competitive world of HBCU marching bands. These stories inform modern music educators about the important role of competition.

Committee Chair

Stanley, Ann Marie