NCCU’s Marching Sound Machine ‘Brings It’ to the Rose Parade

The N.C. Central University Marching Sound Machine’s debut at the Rose Parade on Saturday was a complete success. The tricky 110-degree turn onto Colorado Boulevard? Flawless. The moon-walking dance moves? Smooth as silk. The response of the crowd? Almost louder than the band’s drum line.

“It went very, very well,” said Brian Henry, tuba player and senior in mass communication at NCCU. “The turn was very easy. Everybody did an excellent job. It was awesome!”

Turquoise Thompson, December graduate in public administration and captain of the auxiliary dance team, said, “It felt like we were doing it for a lot of other people, people who came before us and those who’ll come after. My favorite part was when we finished, we cheered and hugged each other and began rejoicing.”

Sharing in the delight from the grandstand was NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms, who reflected on what it took for the band to reach an appearance in the Rose Parade, one of the highest honors a marching band can achieve.

“For the students, it gives them a concrete sense of what it takes — the hard work necessary to achieve excellence on a world stage,” Nelms said. “And that is exactly what they have done. They were superb all week long and I am extremely proud of them. I hope they serve as an inspiration to the entire NCCU family – students, and also faculty, staff and alumni – to know that this small, low-wealth institution can achieve distinction when there’s a confluence of aspiration, expectation, and determination.

“There is no way in the world we could have purchased this kind of exposure,” he added. “This should aid in our efforts to recruit academically and musically talented students. The increased name recognition may help us bring in gifted faculty and students to our other signature programs. And it should make our alumni across the country proud of their alma mater.

“In a similar way, we’re hoping to capitalize on this success for the purposes of fundraising. Although I have to hand it to the parents, band boosters, and all of our supporters, especially including Walmart (the company transported the instruments and luggage across the country in a big-rig truck), who made this such a huge positive experience for our students. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The Marching Sound Machine members weren’t alone in California. A sizable delegation of NCCU fans occupied a strategic place in the grandstand across Colorado Boulevard from the Norton Simon Museum – seated in neutral territory between rival groups from the two universities that would face off in the Rose Bowl football game later in the day, Texas Christian University and the University of Wisconsin. Both universities’ bands gained automatic entry to the Rose Parade. The NCCU contingent maintained the peace as the TCU and Wisconsin fans engaged in some pregame posturing while waiting to cheer their bands.

For TV viewers in the Triangle, there was some disappointment as the NBC and ABC networks ended their live coverage of the parade and turned to other programming before the NCCU band made its dramatic appearance. NCCU officials said they were in contact with television outlets in the Triangle and Los Angeles and would put the word out about online links for viewing the band’s performance.