What It Takes to be a BGMM Member


Nadia Durham, Contributor

The Blue and Gold Marching Machine (BGMM) has been considered among the best HBCU bands but the toughest to join for many years. 

The highly decorated, award-winning band has been recognized by Sports Illustrated, Urban Sports News and many other media outlets for their elite performances. At one point, the BGMM was appointed the official band for the professional football team Carolina Panthers. 

Although the HBCU community understands it takes hard work to produce an award-winning performance, Gabriel Woodard, a sophomore mellophone player, provided insight into what life looks like as a band member.

“We hold ourselves accountable with discipline and loyalty throughout the week [and] through hours of practice,” Woodard said. “Doc, the band director, expects nothing less of us than to be on top of everything every time we come to practice. Accountability is a staple for the Blue and Gold Marching Machine.”

Being in the band requires self-discipline and hard work. Practice can range from three to six hours daily, requiring members to be in tip-top shape with their conditioning being a top priority. 

Halftime performances usually range from 20 to 25 minutes with members required to wear hot uniforms and carry heavy instruments. Because of this, staying in shape and having a healthy diet are vital aspects for all band members.

Band members are required to know how to read music and not to “play it by ear.” Reading music requires studying its language and understanding how melodies are derived. According to the BGMM, playing music by ear is a natural gift from God.

On top of all these requirements, BGMM band students must remain in good academic standing with the university.

“It is left up to us to find time between band for university organizations, classes and our own personal social life,” Woodard said when asked how he balances band and school. 

Their hard work remains recognized throughout the community, and the BGMM halftime show is usually the most anticipated part of an N.C. A&T football game. The band is known for putting on an outstanding and memorable performance that leaves the crowd wanting more. 

“BGMM was the first HBCU band I’ve seen in person, and I’ve always noticed how clean and sharp their formations are,” sophomore psychology student Zaveriah Smith said.

Although the week consisted of multiple practices for BGMM, game-day presents a separate amount of things on the to-do list. A typical game day encompasses several run-throughs, stresses, excitements, adrenaline surges and finally, a one-time performance. 

The emotions felt among the band members rise as they prepare to give us the best performance possible. Zachary Steward, a member of the distinguished Sonic Boom horn section of BGMM, shared his pregame emotions. 

“I try not to anticipate too much with the games,” Steward said.”It’s a pretty exhilarating and exhausting day.”

You can catch the BGMM performance during the halftime show of N.C. A&T football games, where the stands are full of proud Aggie students, faculty and alumni.