The Washington Post

Famed Florida A&M band suspended after hazing death

Florida A&M’s famed Marching 100 band has been suspended following the death of a drum major in what police said was a hazing incident.

The website of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee reported that drum major Robert Champion, 26, died Saturday night after he vomited and complained of difficulty breathing. He was on a charter bus with the band, which had traveled to Orlando to perform at halftime at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Classic game.

Police officials in Seminole County said the death was connected to hazing, a practice connected with the band in the past. Hazing, a form of bullying, is common at high schools and colleges around the country.

School authorities announced that all performances of the band had been suspended while an investigation into the death was performed, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. The school is also creating a task force to look at the band and its traditions and practices.

According to the school’s website, Champion was a music major from Atlanta. He was one of six drum majors for the 375-member band.

The Associated Press reported that the band has a history of hazing. It said that in 1998, Tallahassee police opened a probe into a hazing incident in which a band member was hit with paddles more than 300 times as part of an initiation into the clarinet section. The investigation was later closed, with authorities saying that the band member who was assaulted had agreed to the hazing.

In 1989, the school disciplined eight band members who allegedly held a student against his will and beat his head with their elbows. The eight were charged with battery and jailed, but the charges were later dropped.

The Marching 100 has performed at several Super Bowls and represented the United States at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution in Paris, the Associated Press reported.

The band’s website says the Marching 100 has pioneered at least 30 techniques that high school and collegiate marching band programs across the country have adopted.


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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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