Music still lives at FAMU

caines | 5/30/2013, 5:30 a.m.

[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="title"] Student singers, musicians lead anti-hazing campaign at the Caleb Florida A&M University [FAMU] has had more than its share of troubles since the death of Robert Champion a Marching 100 drum major who died after being brutally hazed by some of his fellow band members in 2011. His death shook FAMU to its core but also led both FAMU and other universities to reexamine their hazing policies. Shortly after Champions death, the highly-regarded Marching 100 band was suspended with its future uncertain. At least 13 former band members now face criminal charges with their futures changed forever. Gone are both Dr. Julian White, the former band director and Dr. James Ammons, the Universitys former president. But last Monday, at Liberty Citys Joseph Caleb Center, that old FAMU Rattler spirit shined once more this time in the faces and the energetic performance of a talented group of singers and musicians from the Universitys Music Department. The youth were part of a recruitment and outreach tour that is criss-crossing its way across Florida and other parts of the South. And throughout their 45-minute performance, the message was clear: FAMU is moving forward, steps have been put in place to ensure the safety of its students and most important, hazing is part of their past and not their future. Those points were driven home by Dr. Kawachi Clemons, music department chair who is also a FAMU alum. We are moving in the right direction under our Interim President Dr. Larry Robinson, Clemons, 38, said. We recently hired a new band director, we have a music department compliance officer who is responsible for travel, student grades and our students academic progress, and we have Bryan Smith, who has joined our administration in a newly-developed position special assistant to the president for anti-hazing. But weve taken other steps to make sure every student is 100 percent safe.

Is music dead at FAMU?

When asked about the future of the music department in general and the marching band in particular, Clemons quickly replied, Music is alive and well at FAMU. We have 19 different ensembles, bands and choirs, and were recruiting students now in South Florida from where a large majority of our kids come, he said. We have scholarships for qualified students and we are all committed faculty, administration, alumni and students to changing the environment that allowed hazing to exist. Its a different atmosphere, a different attitude and a different place. Anthony Collier, 18, and Javan Williamson, 19, seniors at Turner Tech and Miramar High School, respectively, both hope to attend FAMU in the Fall. Collier, who matriculates this summer said, FAMU is the place I need to be in order to shape my career and continue my mastering of the trombone. Williamson, who plans to major in piano and vocal, hopes to become a successful professional entertainer and said, FAMU is the place that I know I need to be so I can be the very best. The music was top-notch as good as any professional concert. But as senior music major and the student chaplain for the music department, Thaddeus Stegall, emphasized, to the interested students and to others in the audience, We do not condone hazing we want those who wish to join us at FAMU to sign on the dotted line to musical excellence and to life. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com