Marching Royal Dukes – Welcome back to campus!

By Cara Lundgren, Student Assistant
This weekend the Marching Royal Dukes return to campus to start preparing for the upcoming school year! Here’s a look back through the years at the band’s beginnings.

It wasn’t until 1972 that the school currently known as James Madison University had a marching band. This was back when JMU was known as Madison College and Dr. Carrier was the president. The band’s beginnings were humble. The May 12th 1972 breeze has a simple quick blurb about the band and then moves on.


This blurb paid off; by September 5th 1972 the band had 100 members, and was led by Malcolm B. Harris, who would go on to lead it for 2 years. He would then be replaced by Ken Moulton. In 1977 Michael Davis took the scene and under his wing the marching band performed for the Redskins and Steelers and produced an album.


In the beginning the band was called the Madison Marching Band and the majorettes were called the Golden Girls. Come 1977 the band was called the Marching Dukes and would eventually assume its current name of the Marching Royal Dukes in 1979. By 1978 there were about 198 members and by 1983 the band had swelled to a 300 piece band.

The Marching Royal Dukes have received many awards over the years. In 1994, the John Philip Sousa Foundation named the Dukes recipients of the Sudler Trophy, known as the “Heisman Trophy of college marching bands.” In 1997 and 2001, they performed in the inaugural parades for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The band went through a number of uniform changes in its day. For much of the band’s history these uniforms were adorned with different sashes, some gold, some purple and gold, all fantastic.





Finally in 1985, the marching band found a uniform that they liked enough to keep for almost 20 years.




It wasn’t until 2012 that the marching band replaced these uniforms.


The Marching Royal Dukes have become a staple of the JMU experience. Breeze articles from the 1970s commented on how people stayed during half time to watch the marching band perform, rather than leave to get a hot dog. Friendships are made there, memories are created, and music is performed. We at Special Collections are so excited and happy for the new MRDs and are wishing them the best year they’ve had thus far!


One Reply to “Marching Royal Dukes – Welcome back to campus!”

  1. I had the pleasure to march with the band for one semester in the fall of 1974. Spent 34 years working with high school marching bands in NOVA. Great to see Scott Harrison who cut his DM chops at Mt. Vernon High School.

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