University Bands

The band program has been an integral part of the Music Department at Elizabeth City State University since its inception in the early 1930's. The first band was organized under the presidency of Dr. John H. Bias, and was led by Mr. James Clark, a Biology teacher at ECSU (then named the State Normal School), who was also well-known as a band director in the Tidewater area of Virginia. The first band uniforms were made by his wife.

The school was without a program for a while when Mr. Clark left to go to Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk. In 1948 Mr. Leon Prather, a History teacher, took over the job and reorganized the band program, serving on a part-time basis. The ensemble functioned with very few instruments, insufficient uniforms, and very little money. With the hard work of Mr. Prather, and Ms. Evelyn Johnson, the department head, donations were given by faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, and new uniforms were purchased in 1953. The uniforms were redesigned in the early 1960's. As part of the new developments in the program, the Band began presenting annual concerts on campus.

Ms. Ester Marie Cooke, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, became the first full-time Band Director at ECSU in 1959. She was later succeeded by Mr. Donnell Cooper, former director at P.W. Moore High School in Elizabeth City, and then by Mr. William H. Ryder. Under Mr. Ryder's leadership (1960-1965), the band increased in size and continued to extend the level of its performance literature as the institution added other curricula, which included a Music Education Major. During this time, the band made its first appearance at an Inaugural Parade for the Governor of North Carolina. The band continued to struggle to acquire additional instruments and uniforms.

In September 1965, Mr. Ryder left to pursue his doctoral studies at the University of Michigan, and was succeeded by Mr. David W. "Boss" Williams. Dr. Edna L. Davis became the new Department Chairperson, and through her support and the leadership of Mr. Williams the "Marching Vikings" grew in size from 45 members in 1965 to 100 members in 1968. New uniforms were purchased for the band in 1967 with the help of Student Activity Funds. The award of a Federal Grant that same year enabled the college to secure many of the larger, more expensive instruments, and some of the less commonly used instruments needed for balance and tone quality in marching and concert situations. The band continued to grow, and increased to 126 members, consisting of students of various majors representing all departments of the University. Through Mr. Williams' tireless efforts, the Band extended its performance realm to include more parades and spectacular Halftime shows, including first-time performances in 1969 at professional football games.

In 1971, Dr. Floyd L Robinson ("Chief") took over as Director of Bands, and under his leadership, the Marching Vikings increased its membership to 130. His goal was to have a marching band of 150 members, and that goal was achieved in 1978. In addition to increasing the size and quality of the marching band, Dr. Robinson also sought to improve the quality of the concert band. He put strong emphasis on recruiting outstanding musicians to the University. The Concert Band has toured throughout the East Coast, exemplifying its superior musicianship to various audiences in South Carolina, Georgia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and New York. The Marching Band also traveled throughout the East and South, from New York to New Orleans, and had several of their performances broadcast on National Television.

The Band program has made tremendous strides over the years, and has continued to strive for excellence in marching and musicianship. The band had several directors after Dr. Robinson retired, and continued to perform in a variety of venues both in-state and abroad.

In December 2011, Mrs. Tomisha L. Brock became Director of University Bands, serving alongside her husband, Mr. Joplin D. Brock, who was named Assistant Director of Bands, and within the first year, they increased membership in the marching band from 47 to 140 members. With support from alumni, faculty, and the community, the Marching Sound of Class received new uniforms in October, 2012. In addition to growth in the marching band, the symphonic band and pep bands both experienced significant growth, and in February 2013, the ECSU Pep Band was selected as the featured band at the CIAA Education Day.

In December 2013, the P.O.I.S.O.N. Drumline won 1st Place in the Big Apple Classic HBCU Drumline Competition, hosted at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, and in January 2014, the Marching Sound of Class participated in the inaugural HBCU Experience Battle of the Bands in Wilmington, NC, performing against St. Augustine's University.

Historical Timeline (1930-1977; 2011-Present)

Circa 1930 Band program organized under the leadership of Mr. James Clark, and during the presidency of Dr. John H. Bias
1933 Ms. Evelyn Johnson became the head of the Music Department. The University Choir was Organized
1948 Mr. Leon Prather Became Band Director
1953 New Uniforms Purchased
1959 Ms. Ester Marie Cooke became the first full-time Band Director; Mr. Donnell Cooper succeeded her as Director
1960 Mr. William H. Ryder became Band Director; The band made its first appearance in the NC Governor's Inaugural Parade
1965 Mr. David W. Williams became Band Director;  Program increased to 126 members
1969 1st appearance at professional football games
December 7, 1969 Band performed at Philadelphia Eagles game (Franklin Field, Philadelphia, PA)
December 14, 1969 Band performed at Pittsburgh Steelers game (Pitt Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA)
December 1969 Received invitation to perform for the American Football League Championship Game in Oakland, CA (could not accept the invitation)
November 14, 1970 Performed at Garden State Park (Cherry Hill, NJ)
November 15, 1970 Performed at Philadelphia Eagles game (Franklin Field)
December 13, 1970 Performed at the Washington Redskins game (Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.)
January 1971 Received invitation to represent the state of NC and the U.S. at the World Band Championship in Lisbon, Portugal (12/26/1972-1/2/1973)
April 1-5, 1971 Southern Concert Tour
August 1971 Dr. Floyd L Robinson became Director of Bands; increased membership to 150
April 1-5, 1972 Southern Concert Tour
December 1972 Performed at the New York Jets game (Shea Stadium, NY)
January 1973 Gubernatorial Parade (Raleigh, NC)
December 1973 Performed at the New York Jets game (Shea Stadium, NY)
April 1-5, 1974 Southern Concert Tour
November 1974 Performed at the New Orleans Saints Game (New Orleans, LA)
April 1976 Eastern Concert Tour
December 1977 Invited to participate in the Rose Bowl in California (could not attend)
March 1977 Southern Concert Tour
1977-2011 Band History missing
December 2011 Mrs. Tomisha Brock became the Director of Bands
August 2012 Marching Band membership increased to 140 members; Auxiliary squad was merged and name changed to Allure
October 2012 Marching Band received new uniforms
February 2013 Marching Band featured as CIAA Band of the Year during the CIAA Education Day
September 2013 Featured as the "Month of September" in the HBCU Calendar
December 2013 P.O.I.S.O.N. Drumline won 1st Place in the Big Apple Classic HBCU Drumline Competition (Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY)
January 2014 Marching Sound of Class performed in the inaugural HBCU Experience Battle of the Bands in Wilmington, NC