In front of an audience of over 50,000 fans, on January 25th, the Parkside Elementary School chorus performed at the Georgia Dome with South Carolina State University‘s ‘Marching 101’ during Honda Battle of the Bands. The performance was a tribute to Nelson Mandela as they sang “Dry Your Tears, Africa” by John Williams, in an African dialect.
Denetra Henderson, Parkside music specialist and chorus instructor, was approached three weeks ago by the assistant band director at South Carolina State University regarding this rare opportunity. Henderson states that it was a wonderful chance for the elementary aged students to be exposed to college life as they interacted with the band members before and during the performance. Students, she explained, learned that they could major in any field in college while still pursuing their musical talents. “The performance was wonderful… it was electrifying and it was exciting,” said Henderson, a 26 year veteran with APS and former conductor of the district’s prestigious honor elementary chorus.
“The students are learning about the colleges represented at the Honda Battle of the Bands, and are continuing their conversations in class about college and careers,” she said.
Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, Bethune-Cookman University, Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T University, South Carolina State University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Winston-Salem State University all took center field during the competition.
Emotions during the performance ranged from excitement to fear, but the young performers didn’t let their nervousness show. Fifth grader Malaika Alilaw thought the opportunity was the chance of a lifetime. “I like to sing and Ms. Henderson is my favorite teacher,” said the fourth year chorus member.
No stranger to singing or music — Malaika’s mother is an opera singer — we asked if her mother’s career led to her joining the Parkside chorus. “Opera is a type of music that really touches you, but I sing in the Parkside chorus because it is something that I really want to do. After I started in the chorus, my mom told me that when she was my age she also sang in her school chorus. I thought that was really great.”
When asked if she was nervous about singing in front of a large audience Malaika told us the secret behind looking so confident, “It wasn’t really scary because we had a chance to go to the stadium on Thursday to practice. By the time we arrived on Saturday, we knew what to expect.”
This event marked the 12th year for the event, which showcases the musical talents and showmanship of bands representing Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
About The Honda Battle of the Bands: “The Honda Battle of the Bands continues to support HBCU music education programs across the nation, while producing an entertaining show that never fails to get fans to their feet,” said Gina Jorge, head of Multicultural Marketing for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “We are honored to showcase this incredible musical talent, and are dedicated to sustaining music education at these institutions, through the grants awarded to each participating university.”
Widely known as “The Honda,” The Honda Battle of the Bands was created to celebrate, support and recognize the excellence of Black college marching bands and the unique academic experience offered by HBCUs. The participating eight marching bands each received a $20,000 grant for their school’s music education programs from Honda, along with an all-expense paid trip to Atlanta, to perform at the 2014 Invitational Showcase.
About South Carolina State University: The “Marching 101” of South Carolina State is known coast to coast for its brilliant sound, high energy and exceptional musicianship. The band’s name is actually a misnomer, since the current band boasts a membership of more than 200. Under its present director Eddie Ellis, they have entertained thousands of spectators across the Southeast and millions more via various media. The band has performed during pro football halftime shows, on local and national TV, and at national events and parades. Since their inception in 1918, the school’s bands have been an important part of the Orangeburg community and the state of South Carolina.