Florida A&M University's band ready to retake field

Band to perform for football team's first game Sunday at Citrus Bowl


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After nearly a two-year suspension following the hazing death of a 26-year-old drum major, Florida A&M's band is ready to retake the field.

The band's first performance will take place in the same city where drum major Robert Champion died.

Florida A&M's band hasn't missed a beat since a nearly two-year suspension.

"It's really unbelievable, you know what I'm saying? Being in a position where the band's gone and now the band's back," said band member Zachary Nealy.

The band was suspended after the hazing death of Champion in Nov. 2011. Doctors said Champion was hit more than 300 times during the hazing ritual.

The incident forced the resignation of the university president and faculty members, and felony and misdemeanor charges against more than a dozen former band members.

A new band director was hired earlier this year. The band, 146 members strong, is ready for a new chapter in its storied history.

"Let the world know we're talented musicians, talented group of students and they're going to rise to the occasion," said Adjunct Professor Ralph Jean-Paul.

Part of the new culture includes stricter guidelines for band members. Buses left two hours later than expected because of the extensive checklist. It verifies each band member's enrollment status and GPA.

"A few different processes, but it's for accountability, so it's all great," said Jean-Paul. "It's going to serve a for a bigger purpose."

Five buses are taking the Marching 100 back to Orlando -- the same city they last performed in nearly two years ago.

"The band will exemplify good character and integrity on the trip, it's going to be an awesome trip," said Nealy. "We will not let our fans, our university or anyone down."

The band will perform for the football team's first game on Sunday at the Citrus Bowl.

When the band was suspended in 2011, it had around 400 members. Today, they have just 146.