- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Members of the famed Florida A&M; Marching 100 say they’re making their mark as a smaller, better-sounding band.

The band, which had played at Super Bowls and before U.S. presidents, only started to perform again at the beginning of the 2013 football season after being suspended for more than a year in the aftermath of the 2011 death of drum major Robert Champion.

A former band member accused of being the ringleader of a brutal hazing ritual known as “Crossing Bus C” that killed Champion was convicted Friday of manslaughter and felony hazing. The case brought into focus the culture of hazing in the band.

The number of band members has dropped from more than 400 participants, including some not enrolled at the school, to 162 full-time students. The band marched Saturday in the Florida A&M; homecoming parade in Tallahassee.

Trumpeter Leroy Lubin of Pompano Beach was among the Marching 100 band members in 2011 and is back with the band for his senior year. He tells the Tallahassee Democrat (https://on.tdo.com/1wnwIfn ) that the new version of the band is the superior version.

“The students are a lot more focused now, in terms of balancing band and schoolwork. Because of the smaller numbers, we sound cleaner,” he said. “We still have that big sound we need to get. Now I have to play for two or three people, compared to my first year when we had 30 or 40 trumpeters.”

Victor Gaines, the band’s head drum major in 1991 and now president of the Marching 100 Alumni Band Association, said the band sounds clearer than ever.

“Academically they are doing very, very well. In terms of their presence, I think they are growing into it,” Gaines said. “They know the legacy they have, what they’re living up to in terms of levels of performance.”

After Champion’s death, the university’s former president, James Ammons, resigned and the band’s director, Julian White, was fired before being allowed to retire.

Several other former band members have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and three await trial. Former band member Jessie Baskin pleaded no contest to manslaughter in March and received a year in county jail. He is the only one of the previous defendants to receive jail time.

There have been no substantiated hazing incidents since the band was reinstated in 2013, said Bryan Smith, the university’s new “anti-hazing czar.”

Sylvester Young, who took over directing the band in May 2013, said it’s a new era for the Marching 100 with freshmen who were still in high school when Champion died.

“It’s totally different now. The university has gone through a major transformation,” Young said.

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Information from: Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat, https://www.tdo.com

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