Dudley band to march on DC

by Jordan Green

Dudley High School Band Director Ricardo Reid stood at the 50-yard line on the practice field beside Dudley High School and surveyed the marching band. The horn section performed a solemn requiem and the drum corps gave a bracing rat-atat-tat. “That’ll work, boy,” Reid said. “Hey, y’all are much better on everything. That wasn’t where we need to be, but that was much better.” The marching band — complete with baton twirlers, flag wavers, flag runners and acrobatic drum majors — formed an impressive phalanx on the practice field as dusk descended around 5 p.m. on a recent Wednesday. The band was flush with positive acknowledgement from an announcement by Guilford County Schools the previous week that they will travel to Washington, DC in January to perform at the Presidential Inaugural Heritage Music Festival. But the student musicians, faculty and parent volunteers were hardly in a celebratory mood. They were competing that weekend at a national invitational competition at NC A&T University. Music needed practicing. Sequences and routines had to be rehearsed. The various players needed to get their tempos down, hit the right accents. One of the drum majors yelled, “Obama.” The whole band responded, “Yes, we can.” Reid looked confident. “You got the show,” he told them. “It’s like you’ve got the tools, but your house is leaning a little bit.” He went into his office to confer with the parent band boosters. The band has been raising money for the trip to Washington since July, a month or two before they learned that their application and audition CD had landed them a gig at the inauguration. They must raise about $60,000 to cover the cost of the trip. Once Reid disappeared the hard drilling began. Volunteer Sasha Davis put them through their paces. “I graduated from Dudley in ’95,” she told the students. “Long time ago. So what? Let them know Dudley is still here. Let’s be about business.” To Davis’ ear, their call sounded a little weak. “Yes, we can.” “I wasn’t feeling that at all.” “Yes, we can.” “Y’all sure about that?” The horn players took up the requiem again. It was followed by a rolling drum line and the majestic clash of the cymbals. The drum majors stepped forward and planted their scepters. They kicked their legs around. Then one of them cupped his hands and the other sprung off the platform in a back flip. Davis wanted the drummers to place an accent on the drum majors hip swivel, what she called the “pop around,” as they straddled their scepters. The sequence included “Magic Touch,” “American Boy,” “Just Fine,” “Here I Am,” a percussion feature and “Take A Bow.” The Dudley marching band is taking on comers from Michigan, Ohio and Virginia in its backyard at nearby A&T. Reid, who took over the position of band director in August, was with a parent in his office, thumbing through a photo album documenting the marching band’s trip to London in 1989. That was a big deal. This slot at the inauguration may be bigger. “It’s an honor,” he said. “All I want to see is see the kids get the experience.” The marching band was confirmed to perform at the inauguration regardless of whether it marked the beginning of an Obama administration or a McCain administration. That Obama emerged the victor only seems to have sweetened the deal for this historic, predominantly black high school in Greensboro. Reginald Johnson, one of the drum majors, turned 18 a week before the election and cast his first vote. Cymbal player Crystal Hood, who is not yet voting age, made sure her parents and grandparents cast their ballots. She said she felt as if she had voted herself. “My grandparents were there throughout the Civil Rights Movement,” Hood said. “I’m the only girl, so I want to do great [at the inauguration] for my parents, my grandparents and Dudley.” The band practices three hours every day, Monday through Thursday, and then performs at games on Fridays. Johnson is clear on what the band needs to do between now and Jan. 16. “Practice hard. Marching. Playing. Voice commands. Everything we do. Making sure everything’s crisp and clean.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.

The Dudley High School band practices on a recent Wednesday evening.The band has been selected to perform at the Presidential InauguralHeritage Music Festival in Washington in January. (photo by JordanGreen) com.