- Faith & Family
The death of Florida A&M University’s [FAMU] Marching 100 Drum Major Robert Champion has had nothing but tragic results from the moment he died, especially for his parents. I’ve read reports
where the mother of Robert Champion stated that the band should remain off the field until all of the mess was cleaned up. Changes definitely have to be made without question.
As I watched an ESPN Outside the Lines report on hazing at FAMU and how certain members couldn’t control themselves or their feelings about Champion, it was clear how badly change is needed. Sadly, once those who are charged in his death have been convicted, they will lose many of their rights — like the right to vote. That, too, is a tragedy.
Says Mrs. Champion, “ Our goal is never to stop the music because that’s what my son loved. He loved music but we certainly want to end the hazing; there is no need for it.” There has to be a better solution than to suspend the FAMU Marching 100. The other 400-plus band members shouldn’t have to be penalized for the behavior of a few.
The University has to look within and hire the person who can best restore the band’s respectability, credibility and greatness created by the late Dr. William P. Foster. Dr. Shelby R. Chipman, associate professor and associate director of bands at FAMU was taught music under the late Herbert J. Rhodes at Miami Northwestern Senior High.
When the band program at Miami Central began to decline in the late 1980s and continuing through the early 1990s, it was Chipman who turned things around. Rhodes and Tolbert were both taught by Foster. Prior to his appointment at FAMU, Chipman taught band in the Miami-Dade County Public School system for 10 years.
His band program at Miami Central developed into one of the finest band programs in the country. As much as a teacher as he was a musician, Chipman was named Teacher of the Year during the 1993-94 school year. Under his leadership the Rocket Marching band performed in the 1993, 1995 and 1997 King Orange Jamboree Parades, 1993 Heritage Festival (New Orleans), 1990-96 Florida A&M University Homecoming Festivals (Tallahassee), 1992-97 MLK Parades & Festival (St. Petersburg), 1997 Macy’s Day Parade (New York City) and numerous other marching events. The symphonic band performed at the prestigious Bands of America National Concert Festival in Indianapolis. Halftime this year promises to be quite uneventful — even boring. Without the Marching 100, it will resemble a cookout without food.
Brian Dennis is the executive director of Brothers of the Same Mind in Miami.
By Brian Dennis
Miami Times contributor