Morgan State University’s famed marching band has recently landed a couple pretty good gigs.
The band, the Magnificent Marching Machine, will perform at a Juneteenth concert at the White House on Tuesday evening.
And in June 2024, it was announced recently, the band will take part in the annual Normandy parade in France to mark the anniversary of the D-Day invasion during World War II.
Morgan State’s marching band is one of four from historically Black colleges or universities invited to the Juneteenth concert and the first ever from an HBCU invited to the D-Day parade.
The South Lawn concert will feature more than a dozen other acts, including Jennifer Hudson, Audra McDonald and Step Afrika! It is being hosted by President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
Juneteenth marks the day in June 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free after the end of the Civil War. Biden in 2021 signed legislation making it a federal holiday.
Morgan State’s band is accustomed to the spotlight, having performed in the 93rd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 2022 NBA HBCU Classic and the 2023 Honda Battle of the Bands, among other events recently. It has also performed at NFL games, presidential inaugurations and at the World Series.
The Magnificent Marching Machine aims to bring attention not only to Morgan State, but HBCUs across the country.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase the band and to showcase Morgan State’s talent,” said Travis Jones, one of four drum majors for the band.
“Before all this attention, HBCUs weren’t getting the light they deserve until bad things happened,” Jones said. “But now, we can reflect and look at all the good things that have happened.”
Morgan State University’s band program features five different ensembles: marching band, symphonic band, jazz band, pep band and jazz combo. The most widely recognized is the Magnificent Marching Machine.
The marching band is composed of 152 students, and its performances reflect a consistent collaboration between students and its director.
Jorim Reid, the director of bands at Morgan State, described how he connects with the band and leads them towards prominence.
“I have to lead them academically, I have to develop the mental leaders, I have to develop them into who they are going to become,” Reid told The Baltimore Banner.
“At the same time, I have an open ear to hear their voices on what’s current. We keep it current but make sure it’s tasteful, we make sure it doesn’t embarrass the university, and we make sure it represents the students well,” he added.
The band will be marching between two historic towns in next year’s D-Day parade: Vierville-sur-Mer and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, according to a news release. When they march, band members will play “America the Beautiful.”
Band members also plan to lay a wreath at Normandy American Cemetery, where more than 9,300 soldiers were buried, the release said. Additionally, they plan to perform a rendition of “Tribute to (Fallen) Americans.”
Music Celebrations International extended the invitation to perform in the parade and will handle trip arrangements for travel, concert, sightseeing and accommodations, according to the release.
“At the end of the day the travel is great, that they’re performing is great, but it’s about the student experience. Especially at a HBCU,” Reid said.
“A lot of times our HBCU students come from places and spaces where they don’t have the opportunity to travel to Europe,” he added. “This is an opportunity to embrace the university’s vision, which is to grow and enhance these students to give them an experience beyond Maryland and the United States.”
Following their appearance in the D-Day parade, marching band members can look forward to another good gig: A scheduled performance at Disneyland Paris that same week.