The band is back.
After nearly two years of silence, the Florida A&M Marching 100 will be performing again — bringing its trailblazing music and moves to Orlando on Sept. 1.
But the celebrated band will be different in many ways, FAMU leaders say.
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It will be smaller: 126 members instead of about 350. And it will have a new attitude after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011 at Orlando's Rosen Plaza hotel after the annual Florida Classic football game with Bethune-Cookman University.
The journey back has been rough, not just for band members, but for the entire university. Fallout from Champion's death led to the band's suspension and the ouster of FAMU President James Ammons and longtime band director Julian White. Concerns about student safety were one reason the school's accrediting agency put it on a year's probation.
Fifteen band members were charged with felonies in connection with Champion's death, eight of whom are awaiting trial. And the university has put in place a series of measures it hopes will ensure that hazing is no longer a part of the band's culture and is reported promptly if it does happen.
"This is a new beginning for this band," said new band director Sylvester Young.
Its first appearance will be at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando on Sept. 1, when FAMU will play Mississippi Valley State.
Fans and alumni had been anxious to know whether school officials would allow the Marching 100 to perform during the fall 2013 season.
The band has been practicing for a few days and is now adhering to a new set of rules.
Students are allowed to participate in the band only for four fall semesters. They must maintain a 2.0 GPA and have earned 24 credits during the previous academic year.
The university's interim president, Larry Robinson, said the administration was fully behind Young's decision to allow the band to perform at games this fall.
"We believe that moving forward that the band will be a model of excellence for other bands across the nation," he said.