Humble Beginnings

Malcolm Harris talking to the band. From the 1973 Bluestone (volume 65)

One of the most important people necessary for creating a marching band is a band director. The first director of the Madison College Marching Band would be tasked with recruiting members, selecting a uniform, building a repertoire of show music, and, once the 1972-1973 school year started, running a band camp for new members. The band director is also essential to guiding the program through the season’s performances and rehearsals. The Marching Royal Dukes underwent three director changes during the 1970s.

Malcolm Harris, pictured above talking to the band, was first to direct the MCMB. According to a May 12 article in The Breeze, Harris would begin organizing the band on June 15, 1972, and bids had been placed for new uniforms, which would arrive in the fall. (“Madison College Marching Band.” ) Harris recruited 100 members during the summer months and began practicing a few weeks before school opened. According to a September 5 article on the band, “Many of the new band students were already members of the concert band, but others recruited were non-music majors who were in high school bands.” Harris boasts this same article that he has never had a bad marching band, and that he sees potential at Madison. Mr. Harris came to Madison from teaching in Odessa, TX. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri and his Master of Arts in composition from West Texas University. At the time of this article, he had also begun work at North Texas State towards his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree. (“Madison College Designates Director for Marching Band.”)

1972-1974 Band Uniform (from 1974 Bluestone)

Above is the first uniform for the Madison College Marching Band. According to the Centennial Celebration website, the uniform consisted of “tuxedo jackets with white overlays emblazoned with a golden M.” (Graham) Most members in the early 1970s were music majors, who would also be members of the Concert Band. The uniform was reversible and could be easily changed into concert attire, an decision that helped to fit the needs of both ensembles. According to Mr. Bill Posey, this was very common in uniforms in those days; when you take off the overlay and put on a white shirt and tie you have a concert uniform. It was very cost-effective for bands to have their uniform two-in-one. (“Posey”) This golden M is regal, yet still holds tightly to the “Madison College” image. Future changes in uniform design reflect the progression toward university status. The drum major, Doug Shoemaker, can be seen in the following two images, wearing a white jacket and white pants. He is also pictured in the feature image. (“Posey”) Drum majors are student leaders of the marching band who generally conduct the halftime show and lead the band during parades.

Madison College Marching Band in a parade competition in Woodstock. From the Friday, September 29, 1972 issue of The Breeze

During Harris’ first season, the band had nine scheduled performances. One such performance was the Shenandoah County for the Bicentennial Parade in Woodstock, VA (pictured above) where the band took first place in the parade competition. Other activities included a visit to Buena Vista, a halftime show at the University of Virginia on November 4, and the Harrisonburg Retail Merchants Parade on Sunday, December 3rd. Five of the performances were at Madison. Four of those were most likely football games, and one included a Winter Concert in Duke Hall at 8pm on December 15 to end the season.

From the October 27, 1972 issue of The Breeze. The Band is marching in the Homecoming Parade

The band also participated in Parent’s Day and Homecoming celebrations on campus. Parents Day was held on Saturday, October 7, 1972. The Madison College Concert Band performed in a 45-minute concert at 11AM Saturday morning for parents and students.  A football game was planned for 8pm on Saturday in Harrisonburg’s Memorial Stadium, but nearly six inches of rain over two days altered some of the Parent’s Day plans. The game was rescheduled to start earlier, at 3PM on Saturday, on the practice field near Godwin Hall. Around 5,000 people turned out for the game versus Shepherd College’s junior varsity team. Madison lost, with the final score being 6-0.

Madison College celebrated its first fall homecoming the weekend of Friday and Saturday October 20-21, 1972. Previously, the college held homecoming in the spring; however, it was decided to switch to a fall homecoming for two reasons: first, the new calendar for the 1972-73 session would have placed a spring homecoming either too close to exams or too early in winter, and second, most other schools hold their homecomings annually in the fall. There was no football or soccer game scheduled for this first homecoming weekend; the day for homecoming was planned over a year in advance and coaches were unable to plan games just so they will hit the big weekends on campus. Homecoming Queen was announced at the Madison College Band concert on Friday at 8pm in Wilson Auditorium. The band performed in a parade on Saturday at 2pm beginning on campus and then proceeding through downtown Harrisonburg.

Early in its first two years, the Madison College Marching Band began planning a summer band camp for junior and senior high school students. In March of 1973 an article in the Daily News Record announced an 11-day band camp to be held from June 18-29. In order to attend the camp, students had to be in the seventh grade or higher and pay a $90 fee to cover room and board and camp tuition. The camp offered instruction in concert band, stage band, theory, music appreciation, twirling, drum major, and jazz improvisation. The highlight of the camp was a four-day marching band workshop conducted  by Dean Killion, director of the 305 member Texas Tech University marching band. (“Madison Slates June Band Camp”)

Image from 1973 Bluestone. Volumes 65 and 66 of The Bluestone contain one page each for the Concert and Marching Bands. Click to view both one-page spreads.


Works Cited:

“In their first parade competition…” (picture). The Breeze. Friday, September 29, 1972.

James Madison University. The Bluestone. 1973 and 1974 (volumes 65 and 66).

“Madison College Designates Director for Marching Band.” The Breeze. September 5, 1972.

“Madison College Marching Band.” The Breeze. May 12, 1972.

“Madison Slates June Band Camp.” Daily News Record. March 28, 1973.

Martha B. Graham. “JMU – How to Build a Great Marching Band.” James Madison University. (accessed April 17, 2012)

“Nine Band Performances Schedules.” The Breeze. Friday, October 6, 1972.

Photo by Patrick McLaughlin. The Breeze. October 27, 1972.

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