“We don’t think little.”
The Marching Royal Dukes have been the exhibition performance at numerous high school football games, band competitions, and even professional football games. Traveling across the eastern seaboard to perform began in the 1970s as a way to get the Dukes’ name out, to advertise for the school and the music program. The band experienced much growth under Michael Davis, who booked performances for the MRDs at high school football games and band days. Davis sent applications to numerous NFL teams in order for the Dukes to play exhibition performances at halftime. The first of such performances occurred on Monday, October 15, at the Baltimore Colts game vs. the New York Jets.
Such experience was a memorable one from the band, but the crowd’s response was not what most members were used to hearing. When performing at Madison’s stadium, the band always received a tremendous response. At the Colts game, only three sections (out of an audience of 46,919 people) greeted the band when the show was over. To some, said drum major George Carter, that was probably a disappointment. (McFarlane) Davis had six people stationed throughout the stadium to observe the band and pick up comments. Most comments were favorable; however, Mr. Posey commented during our interview that the people at the game were rude. (Posey) The band performed four numbers for their show: “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa; “Officer Krupke” (an arrangement from West Side Story); “Star Wars”; and “Chase the Clouds Away” by Chuck Mangione. During the Star Wars number (which was the crowd favorite), the entire band disappeared underneath a red and white parachute (12-yards in diameter).
“We’re getting exposure. People are getting to know who we are…We don’t think little. When you think little, you stay little. We’re thinking big and building the program.” ~ Mike Davis (McFarlane)
Michael Davis wanted to make James Madison University and the JMU band known across the country. Drum major George Carter said “People see that if you’ve got a good band, you’ve got a good department. They relate that to having a good school.” (McFarlane) This ideology fits well with the Carrier administration’s goal of transitioning Madison College from a mindset of a women’s teachers college to a full-fledged university, complete with an outstanding band program.
However, Davis was cautious about becoming too large. The band had 192 performing members (124 horns, 24 percussion, 28 colorguard, 10 rifles, 2 feature twirlers, 2 drum majors, and 2 auxiliaries), and Davis planned to bring the number of playing members up to 250, but no larger. After reaching that goal membership, he wanted to choose members through audition. Circumstances in the band today are different than what Davis hoped for. The band is 450 members strong, and auditions are done only for spots on the field; everyone who wants to is allowed to be a member of the Marching Royal Dukes.
McFarlane, Paul. “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.
“Pro Debut Successful,” Daily News Record, October 17, 1978.