The Morehouse College House of Funk Marching Band is one of the top college bands in the Atlanta area. And Spelman College senior Erica Finley is the only female saxophonist in the majority-male band. In her fourth year in the band, Finley always comes early and stays late at practice, even with her hectic school schedule. October marked the 72nd Annual Tuskegee/Morehouse Football Classic, the oldest classic between two historically black schools and arguably the biggest rivalry between not only football teams, but their bands as well. She recounts the big day, Oct. 5, 2007.
It may not seem that early, but when you're at the band room practicing late into the night, a 9 a.m. wake-up call is miserable.
Our director, Melvin Jones, always has us report to the band room hours before we leave. This morning, everyone's dragging. I triple-check to make sure my section has everything, because performing without an instrument or uniform would be a challenge.
Three long hours later, we're packed and pulling out of Morehouse College.
Field rehearsal in Columbus, Ga. It's October, but it's brutally hot outside. Plus, Mr. Jones makes us start from the beginning if anyone makes a mistake. No matter how much I want to complain, I know I shouldn't. Since I've been in the band for more than three years, I have to set an example for the rookies who might be close to their breaking point.
Arrive at Columbus Civic Center. We may have been tired at first, but once we get here, our adrenaline pumps us awake. The bands take turns playing songs against each other; we read a newspaper while Tuskegee plays, showing our disinterest in their endeavors to win the battle.
Arrive at the hotel. Mr. Jones tells us to get some rest because tomorrow will start early, but who really learns lessons the easy way?
Wake-up call. Definitely regret that 2 a.m. bedtime.
Start prepping for the Morehouse/Tuskegee Classic Parade, beginning in Phenix City, Ala. We tune, practice, pray and, of course, stretch.
Two hours and just over a mile later, we arrive in Columbus, exhausted, with sore feet.
We start marching into the stadium for the Morehouse/Tuskegee football game, high-stepping the entire way. If I thought it was hot yesterday, I was sorely mistaken. When the buzzer rings marking the end of the second quarter, we parade the field, dazzling the crowd with our halftime show.
The game is finally over. We got killed, 10-33, but at least our band sounded better. We march out of the stadium, all the way back to the buses. We never walk: We march.
Everyone says their goodbyes, and we head our separate ways. The weekend was long, but totally worth our efforts.