By Lauren Floyd
When it comes to marching bands, there’s just something about the big bands at HBCUs that sets them apart from your average ensemble of snares, woodwinds and brass. For bands like the Southern University Marching Band, also known as the “Human Jukebox,” it’s all about soul – and of course it’s all about the big sound- but most of all, it’s about putting on an epic performance. Now, fans of the famous Human Jukebox marching band can see them represent Louisiana in the 131stRose Parade 2020.
The floral floats and equestrian units are the headliners at the Rose Parade each year, but it’s undeniable that the talented bands are what truly bring the inspirational New Year’s energy to Colorado Blvd. Every year, the Tournament of Roses music committee screens over 100 entries from bands all over the world. After a thorough judging process, 20 bands were selected including bands from Japan, Denmark, El Salvador and Puerto Rico. This year, Southern University was selected and will be marching in the Rose Parade on New Year’s morning with their famous dance troupe, “Fabulous Dancing Dolls” who are sure to be a show stopper.
“This opportunity allows us to highlight the presence of Southern University and doing so in a grand style, at an international level, where the essence of an HBCU is going to be highlighted through this band,” says Southern University President-Chancellor Dr. Ray L. Belton.
“For us, it was about excellence in terms of musicality and technical of course. That was a given. The quality of these bands is off the charts,” says 2019-2020 President of Tournament of Roses, Laura Farber. But Farber says what makes bands stand out amongst others is much more than their music.
“It was about the stories. What is it about these bands that makes them special? What can we share with the world?” she says.
This goal is something President Farber has instilled in the theme for the 2020 Rose Parade – The Power of Hope.
“Hope is joy and happiness, it’s dignity and respect, aspiration and achievement, and what’s beautiful about it is that no one can ever take it away from you. It never quits,” says Farber.
“For so many people, hope means so many things, everybody can relate to this theme in some way. Whether it’s finding a cure for some disease, whether it’s hope for future generations of our country, for students – for band members.”
President Farber recently took a trip down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to pay a visit to Southern University’s Human Jukebox and Dancing Dolls, announcing that they would be participating in the Rose Parade. The university’s faculty and music directors graciously welcomed President Farber and her husband Tomas Lopez to campus as she presented the Tournament of Roses banner to Southern University Director of Bands, Kedric D. Taylor.
For Farber, she says having an HBCU perform was a must for the committee.
“Oh my goodness. They are so unbelievably amazing in so many ways,” says Farber of Southern University’s marching band and Dancing Dolls. “The talent is undeniable, the energy, the style, all of that. But for me, it’s the connection and the passion and the hope that seeing them perform brings to the future.”
Known around the world as the “Human Jukebox,” Southern University’s marching band got their name for their ability to play any musical ensemble, but of course with their own unique Southern soul and big HBCU band flair, intricate choreography and the collaboration of their 9-person dance unit, The Dancing Dolls. The band marched in the Rose Parade once before in 1980 and has gained notoriety overtime with a list of awards, accolades and appearances including their appearance at the Louisiana Superdome on Aug. 25, 2006, when the New Orleans Saints returned to the stadium for their first home game since Hurricane Katrina damaged the dome.
Despite what side of the infamous Grambling University and Southern University rivalry you may land on (SU and Grambling compete every year at the Bayou Classic), it’s undeniable that the Human Jukebox band is stunningly excellent and seeing them represent HBCUs while marching down Colorado Blvd. at the Rose Parade is sure to be a highlight.
“They know what it means. The discipline, the approach they take — and those Dancing Dolls,” Farber adds, “They are just so incredible.”
So much so, that President Farber selected the band to close out the Bandfest, a two-day event showcasing all the bands that are participating in the parade. Farber says it was only right for them to close it out.
“People need to experience [Human Jukebox]. They need to be a part of it, they need to see it, they need to feel it. It’s tangible how transformative it is to be in their presence. I want the world to see that,” says Farber.
To learn more about the Rose Parade 2020 and Tournament of Roses and for tickets to Bandfest in December, visit tournamenotfroses.com. For all the latest on SU’s Human Jukebox, visit humanjukeboxonline.com.
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.