History | BSU SOS
Today, the Bowie State University Band Program, under the direction of Dr. Adolph E. Wright, is comprised of the “Symphony Of Soul” Marching and Pep Bands, as well as the Concert and Jazz Bands. Each ensemble functions as part of a primary musical unit that services the Bowie State University community and represents the University in a performance capacity throughout the country and abroad. Just recently the BSU Jazz Ensemble participated in an exciting workshop with internatinally renowned saxophonist Ernie Watts during the Annual Big Band Jam in Washington, DC. The jazz ensemble performed during the opening for Mayor Vincent Gray’s proclamatin that April 24th each year will henceforth be Andrew White Day in the District of Columbia.The BSU Jazz Ensemble also performed on the same stage with India Irie at the Strathmore Theatre in Rockville, Maryland and Ray Charles at Pier One in Baltimore, Maryland. The “Perfect Storm” percussion section toured with Gladys Knight as well as participated in a “Drum Battle” at Madison Square Garden during the Big Apple Classic. The “Symphony Of Soul” recently released its first CD entitled “Classic Symphony Of Soul” which features recording artist “KIDO” from N.O.T. records. The BSU Jazz Ensemble recorded Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” with two time “Grammy” award winner Raymond Reeder on the University Gospel Choir’s CD entitled “Magnify the Lord”.The “Symphony Of Soul” has been guest at the Original Battle of the Bands held at RFK Stadium, “Battlefest” in Norfolk, VA, Prince Georges Classic “Battle of Bands” and was selected out of several other HBCU bands to be highlighted in a WB50 commercial. Now recognized for performances in Montreal Quebec (Canada), where they have accepted invitations for the past five years from the Montreal Alouettes, the Canadian League Football Champions, as well as the NFL season opener in 2004, when they performed the National Anthem with “Aretha Franklin” and shared the stage with other recording artists such as “Aerosmith”, Brittney Spears, and Mary J. Bliege. Following this performance, Touchtone Pictures invited the “Symphony Of Soul” Marching Band to perform during their filming of the movie made for television “The Service” at RFK Stadium.
The “Symphony Of Soul” were also featured in the television taping of Lifetime Television’s “Earth Angels”, which aired in December, 05’. The Bowie State University Music Department and the “Symphony Of Soul” hosted the 46th Annual Conference of the Intercollegiate Music Association (IMA) during which students and faculty from historically black colleges and universities came together for workshops, performance clinics, and concerts. The Intercollegiate Music Association, Inc. (IMA), music consortium, brought together approximately 300 students from 12 colleges and universities for this historical event. In 1998, when Dr. Wright took over the direction of the program, the band successfully developed from 35 members to 185 members by the fall of 2001.
The”Symphony Of Soul” has received rave reviews following collegiate performances, supporting both the men and women’s athletics and accompanying them to both CIAA and NCAA Tournament games. The Pep Band was dubbed “Best Band at the CIAA Basketball Tournament in 1999” and has since been considered the band which all rival ensembles use as a measure for success at CIAA Tournaments.
Although pictures have been located of Bowie State’s band program dating back to 1928 the history is still being researched. Bowie State University’s band program came of age as a performance unit in the 1970’s under the direction of Mr. Bruce Edwards, currently the announcer for the Howard University Showtime Marching Band. Following Mr. Edwards’ departure Dr. Clarence Knight took over the band program. Dr. Knight manned the helm during the early 1980’s along with Peter Ford and managed to keep the program moving in a positive direction. Mostly focusing on the Jazz and Concert ensembles, Dr. Knight and Mr. Ford emphasized a high quality of musicianship with a moderate student population. By today’s HBCU standards the Marching and Pep Bands achieved modest development during this period.
A significant turnaround took place in 1991 when Dr. Knight began to actively recruit students with prior marching band experience. In 1992, the program began to gain respect and admiration from the Bowie State University community as dynamic halftime shows where performed for audiences from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to the District of Columbia. Dr. Knight’s involvement with the marching band was primarily administrative, Assistant Director, Otis Harris who had been with the program since 1989, kept morale high and assisted with recruitment.
Growing support for the band program developed in 1994 when the University, combined with the newly formed Bulldog Club Boosters’ Association, purchased 75 new uniforms and a few new instruments for the band. A new sound and excitement filled Bulldog Stadium every Saturday as the band gave dynamic performances weekend to weekend. The band, previously known as the “Supreme Enterprise” Marching Band was given a new identity to match the new uniforms; the name changed to the “Marching Bulldogs”. Unfortunately, the “Marching Bulldogs would experience the devastation of several years with no ‘official’ full-time band director prior to the hiring of Sanders Milligan in 1995, who renamed the BSU marching band “The Metro-Movers”.
In 1996, the university granted the band program more money for two new drum major uniforms, two additional away trips and additional miscellaneous expenses, including staff support for the band director. During the ‘96 season, with influences by the student body, the name of the band changed to the “Symphony of Soul”. This name was much more representative of the style and direction that the music program was moving toward.
Due to uncontrollable circumstances the program meandered for some years and even took a turn for the worst. In 1998 the University decided it was time for Bowie State University to have a music program that was representative of the academic excellence exemplified by the campus. After an exhausting nationwide search the University hired the former Associate Director of University Bands, at Howard University, Dr. Adolph Wright. Several weeks into the ‘98 football season, Dr. Wright stepped in as Director of University Bands, and turned the program around by the end of the season. Heavy recruitment combined with strategic planning and organization changed the flailing “S.O.S.” band from a mediocre band during the beginning of the fall, to a powerhouse at the CIAA Basketball Tournament in February of 1999. Local stations in Winston-Salem, NC reported the “S.O.S.” as the best band in attendance at the tournament and Home Team Sports cable channel rebroadcast several games where BSU played against other CIAA teams.