The moment the second quarter buzzer hits zero at BB&T Field is typically when the student section thins out. But, last Friday night, the student section remained fuller than usual, as students and fans alike witnessed a unique and exciting halftime performance.
For the first time ever, two collegiate marching bands graced the field. The Spirit of the Old Gold and Black (SOTOGAB), Wake Forest’s marching band, was joined by the Red Sea of Sound, Winston Salem State University’s (WSSU) marching band.
For members of the audience and of both bands, this historic first will last in their memory as a thrilling opener to the 2019 Demon Deacon football season.
“Big moments for our band is what we expect,” said Michael Magruder, director of bands and professor of music at WSSU. “I mentioned to them that being at Wake Forest [for opening night] was another ‘big moment.’”
In a historic performance, the Red Sea of Sound kicked off the halftime show by performing “Applause” by Lady Gaga, accompanied visually by their flag line, known as Silky Smooth, and dance line, known as Scarlet Lace. SOTOGAB then merged with the Red Sea of Sound on the field, alternating players from each band across the rows. Together, the bands performed a medley of Stevie Wonder’s hits, including “Sir Duke” and “Superstition.” The songs fit in well with SOTOGAB’s Motown-themed show, part of which they showcased following the combined portion of the halftime show.
“We had many goals for this event, but one of them was to entertain our fans and we did just that,” said Timothy Heath, director of athletic bands for Wake Forest.
Before the night kicked off, the two bands got to know each other, both musically and personally, at a pre-game practice. While SOTOGAB members were warming up for practice, the Red Sea of Sound marched into the stadium, giving a kind of mini-performance. The Red Sea of Sound utilizes a show style of marching, with a high step, whereas SOTOGAB follows a military style, with a roll step.
Myles Moore, a senior at WSSU and the head drum major of the Red Sea of Sound, enjoyed the opportunity to have a combined rehearsal, for it allowed the two bands to get used to each other’s different styles.
“I really liked how adaptable SOTOGAB was,” Moore said. “I’m sure everything I did during the rehearsal [as a drum major] wasn’t the same as how they normally do it. As soon as I told them what was going to be done, they did it just like my band.”
During the game, the Red Sea of Sound filled in the stands behind SOTOGAB. They played a few tunes throughout the game, entertaining the members of SOTOGAB, who are used to being the entertainers.
“[The Red Sea of Sound] truly brought a whole new fan experience to BB&T, and I’m very grateful for their enthusiasm and participation,” said senior and SOTOGAB drum major Skylar Liang. “Their sound quality, music choice and marching style was something we’ve not had here, and it’s definitely something we won’t forget and would love to see again.”
While the combined performance brought a new level of excitement to the game, the purpose of the collaboration went beyond game-time hype.
“While this was a historic moment for both Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State University, we believe that the camaraderie and the collaboration had a deeper meaning,” said Magruder. “I believe that everyone in attendance understood why we were there and the purpose of our visit.”
The day before the game, WSSU Chancellor Elwood Robinson interviewed the band directors and a drum major from each band on his radio show. Heath explained that the chancellor asked the drum majors what they thought about the broader significance of the performance and their answers exemplified both aspects of the combined performance.
“Myles [Moore] said that even though both bands have different styles, they would be inside BB&T Stadium for the exact same purpose — to please the crowds and play good music that would make someone happy,” Heath said. “Ali [Kitterman] spoke about music being a universal language and said it is a meeting ground at which we all unite … saying she thought the collaboration could be a really good step in unifying the city of Winston-Salem.”