New Tuskegee University band director aims to bring ‘new energy and new vision’

Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 5:43 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Tuskegee University Crimson Piper Marching Band is under new leadership.

J. William Nicholas has been hired as the new band director. Originally from Orlando, Florida, he brings in years of experience at more than 10 high schools across the Southeast and recently served as associate director of bands at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

This will be his first football season with the band.

“It’s exciting, it’s challenging, and it’s super rewarding,” Nicholas said about his new role.

The change in leadership comes as school officials work to address a list of concerns brought forward by band members last year. Members released a statement listing concerns regarding leadership, funding, recruitment and more. Members even refused to perform at some games in protest until the issues were addressed.

Under his leadership, Nicholas says the program is headed in a better direction.

“I’m acutely aware of the situation that happened last year, but it is just that, it is history,” Nicholas said. “We’re moving forward with new energy and new vision.”

The Tuskegee University Crimson Piper Marching Band has been hard at work this Summer preparing...
The Tuskegee University Crimson Piper Marching Band has been hard at work this Summer preparing for football season.(Stefan Smith)

Nicholas said they are marketing the band better to attract more members and are getting more financial support from the university, alumni and Golden Tiger family, starting with new uniforms.

“They’re a modernized version of the older uniform, so they’re lightweight so students can move and breathe,” Nicholas said.

He said the band has been working hard this summer to bring audiences a new sound too.

“Our show will be resonant with the music of today, so things that are on the radio, things that are popular and current,” Nicholas said.

But most importantly, the university is making sure band members needs are being met.

“We’re working together to ensure that students are well taken care of and that they feel a sense of pride in the program that they are participating in,” Nicholas said.

And with a new leader, they are marching in a new direction.

“Students are highly motivated and engaged because they love the program so much, and they have taken on this new vision and new direction with alacrity,” Nicholas said.

The university also said they will hire an assistant to lead the band’s day-to-day operations. They are still looking for someone to fill that role. They are also looking into creating a review committee to give recommendations for long-term solutions.

You can watch the Crimson Piper Marching Band perform in-person this Sunday. The annual Red Tails Classic is kicking off inside historic Cramton Bowl in downtown Montgomery.

Tuskegee is playing Fort Valley State University in a big HBCU matchup. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

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