It was not a football game that got the crowd cheering at The Citadel’s Hagood Stadium on Sunday afternoon; it was the high-impact music and energetic dancing of high school and college bands.
Bands are a big deal in predominantly black Southern schools, as the 24th annual Palmetto Invitational Band Classic demonstrated,
“It’s part of the African-American culture,” said Reggina Diggins, a parent who was in the stands to support Burke High School, which is beside the stadium. “It’s really the highlight of the college sometimes, along with their football team or any kind of athletic sport.”
For many students, band is a way to get a college scholarship, just like football or basketball, she said.
The annual exhibition that raises money for scholarships through ticket sales and sponsorships, drew about 1,000 spectators Sunday. Last year’s event raised $65,000 for scholarships for Burke seniors, band director Linard McCloud said.
Diggins’ daughter, also named Reggina, is an 11th-grader at Burke. She said she thinks band members are cool, with their high-energy moves and dances that accompany their music.
“Everybody is a big fan of the band,” she said. “They love the band. As much as they love the football and basketball players, they love the band, too.”
R.B. Stall High School of North Charleston also showed off its band. After an energetic performance in the heat, two girls collapsed when they got off the field and had to be cooled off by EMS.
One eventually recovered, while the other was taken to a hospital for further treatment. A band staff member said she has asthma and had forgotten to bring her inhaler.
The incident was a reminder that performing in a high school band is a strenuous activity, involving athletics as well as music.
“They’ve got to be athletes, because they do athletic things,” McCloud said. “They have to be in condition.”
His band members not only spend hours practicing their instruments and moves, but he encourages them to work out and run as well, he said.
Once it became clear that the two girls were going to be all right, band members sat down for a meal in a room at Burke. Shelby McGuire, a senior, is a drum major and also plays varsity basketball.
“Bands are cool,” she said. “Bands are great. We have the crowds. I love it.”
The most impressive exhibitions were from three colleges that fielded at least 200 band members each.
S.C. State University of Orangeburg, clad in garnet and blue, featured not only musicians but two groups of dancers that got the crowd cheering and clapping.
“Of all the marching bands you see this season, there will be none like these intermission magicians,” the announcer said over the sound system.
Bethune-Cookman University of Daytona Beach, Fla., practically filled the football field with at least 250 performers in maroon and gold, including nine female dancers who came out in gold capes, then took them off to reveal gold bikinis with microskirts. Meanwhile, the drum majors were pleasing the crowd with some energetic gyrations.
“The best of the best,” the announcer noted.
Edward Waters College of Jacksonville, Fla., wearing purple trimmed in orange and white, got the crowd whooping with a gymnastics exhibition.
No prizes were awarded, other than the pride of a good performance.
“It’s just to show our talent,” said Jessika Washington, a senior at Burke who makes flags dance.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.