Sights and Sounds

“University Hosts Band Competition.” Daily News Record, October 28, 1978

On October 28, 1978, James Madison University hosted the first ever Marching Bands of America Mideast Regional Championship.  Michael Davis had an “in” with the higher ups in Bands of America and wanted to bring a regional competition to JMU.  The Marching Royal Dukes staffed the competition and assisted with the general proceedings. JMU continued hosting the BOA regional in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982. One of the reasons JMU continued to host this event according to Mr. Posey was that “unlike a lot of schools, we provided them with the students that actually showed up and did the job, and did the job well…” (“Posey”) The success of this event contributed to the eventual nickname of the band, “Virginia’s Finest”, in response to one judge’s comment that James Madison had “a fine band.”

In 1983, the competition began to be controlled by the Dukes exclusively. This annual event became known as “Parade of Champions”, and it is one of the most visible recruiting events of both the Marching Royal Dukes and James Madison University.  At most, the competition featured 61 high school bands from across the mid-Atlantic.

Scanned image from the title of the first MRD Record. Click the image to view the back of the record, which includes a track listing and a brief blur about the band.

1978 was a big year for the Marching Royal Dukes. This year the band produced its first album. Below are links to mp3’s from a CD transfer of the record. In the process of transferring, two of the songs were accidentally made into two tracks.

  1. Espagne
  2. Chump Change
  3. Long Train Runnin’
  4. God Bless the Child
  5. Shenandoah
  6. Officer Krupke
  7. Riccio’s Thunder (Drum Solo)
  8. Pictures at an Exhibition pt.1
    ictures at an Exhibition pt.2
  9. Sinfonians
  10. Chase the Clouds Away
  11. Stars and Stripes Forever, pt.1
    Stars and Stripes Forever, pt.2
  12. Land of Make Believe
  13. Star Wars
  14. You’ll Never Walk Alone

The Marching Royal Dukes’ performance of “Star Wars” at exhibition performances is indicative of the times. The blockbuster movie Star Wars IV: A New Hope was released in 1977. During their performance of this piece, the marching band members formed revolving flower design images and disappeared under a huge red and white parachute. The parachute spun during a drum solo and the band members came out in a different pattern than before they disappeared. Other members ran round the field dressed as robots; Michael Davis was very open to innovative techniques of audience appeal.

Band members disappear under a 12-yard red and white parachute. From The Breeze, Friday, October 20, 1978


Works Cited:

“JMU Royal Marching Dukes make successful professional football debut.” The Breeze. Friday, October 20, 1978

Posey, Bill. 2012. Interview by Kayla Payne. Harrisonburg, VA. April 6.

“University Hosts Band Competition,” Daily News Record, October 28, 1978.