On Saturday, before a crowd of more than 47,800 spectators at the Florida Blue Florida Classic, the band once again set the bar by unveiling new uniforms that pay homage to its legacy while signifying the beginning of a new era.
FAMU alumni Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, donated $250,000 in 2016 during the Florida Classic to help the band purchase new uniforms and a branded trailer to transport the band’s instruments and equipment. Bernard Kinsey was a member of the band and met his wife at FAMU.
Shirley Kinsey said, “This is like prom and graduation all rolled into one. I’m very proud of these students, not just for their musicianship but for academics also.”
Many of the band’s members, including its freshman class, boast GPAs ranging from 3.0 to 4.0.
The Kinseys challenged the University community to match their gift to ensure the band received a total of $500,000. The Office of Academic Affairs provided $250,000 to purchase instruments for the music department and met the terms of the challenge. Instruments on the field during the game included new tubas. The FAMU Foundation provided an additional $100,000 in scholarships for band members.
Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., watched the band’s performance on the sidelines with the Kinseys and said the new uniforms are an investment in current and future Rattlers.
“We want students who are here now to understand how much we appreciate their hard work as well as the faculty that guide them,” Robinson said. “I also think this new look will help attract more students to Florida A&M University.”
More than 300 uniforms were custom designed and created by the Fruhauf Uniform Company for the 241-member band, including 12 white and black drum major uniforms and 20 flag corps uniforms.
Band president Justin Fitzpatrick is a graduating senior and was thrilled to wear a new uniform during his last game.
“In 2014, it was an experience as I became a part of a bigger legacy. Now, with the new uniforms, begins a new era. It will be exciting to see where the program goes from here,” he said.
After the band’s performance, student-musician Amber Smith called the experience “overwhelming” as she performed for a crowd that included her parents.
Smith said, “It’s an honorable feeling because it was my father’s aspiration to come to FAMU, but he wasn’t able to. And to be able to attend Florida A&M University and march with the ‘100,’ it’s as though I’m stepping into his shoes and honoring his wishes.”
In honor of its founder, William P. Foster, Ph.D., and past band members, the uniform includes a patch on the cuffs – an original Rattler mascot that has been used by the band since 1972.
In addition to a Rattler skin pattern and the University’s official colors (orange representing Florida’s citrus industry and green representing the state’s roots in agriculture), the uniforms also incorporate chevrons and the color black, which represent prestige, authority and elegance.
The drum majors debuted their majestic black uniforms with orange and green embellishments and a pattern of the nostalgic Rattler patch.
Band Director Shelby Chipman, Ph.D., said, “It’s good to have something fresh and new. Like former President Obama said, ‘sometimes change is good.’ A lot of thought went into the process of getting these uniforms, including input from the administration, the Kinseys, student body, and alumni. All had input because we wanted to preserve our legacy.”
The new uniforms replace the band’s 15-year-old uniforms and will have another national audience – a performance at the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade (Rose Bowl) in 2019.
Bernard Kinsey said, “We can’t wait for them to come out there and change the script for what marching bands do for the Rose Bowl parade. They’ve never heard anything or seen anything like the Florida A&M University marching band.”
On Friday, during the Florida Blue Battle of the Bands, Chipman announced a fundraiser for the band’s road to the Rose Bowl. They’re appreciative of receiving gifts of any amount, but those who give $1,000 or more will receive a commemorative plaque and a listing on a donor recognition wall that will be housed outside of the band building on campus.
Since Thursday, Chipman has already received $22,000 in donations and pledges toward a $100,000 goal he hopes to reach by the end of December. He is seeking 78 more donors to help him reach this milestone, and will launch an additional campaign to raise $400,000 by the end of summer 2018. The total cost of the Rose Bowl trip is $500,000.
To make a donation, contact the FAMU Foundation at 850-412-5755.
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