Wilberforce plans to bring back marching band, music program

Aerial view of the campus of Wilberforce University.
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Aerial view of the campus of Wilberforce University.

Credit: Contributed

Wilberforce University is bringing back its music program — complete with a marching band and choir — after a years-long hiatus.

The nation’s first private Historically Black College and University recently hired a veteran music educator with a reputation for rebuilding building music and band programs, to lead the efforts. The school also added an area native and Dayton Public Schools product to the team.

James McLeod, will serve as chair of the new music department, and Virgil Goodwine, an assistant music professor, is charged with rebuilding the marching band.

The band will operate identically to other HBCU ensembles, marching at home basketball games, parades, high school football games and guest performances, the university said. WU does not a football team.

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James McLeod. Courtesy of Wilberforce University.

James McLeod. Courtesy of Wilberforce University.
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James McLeod. Courtesy of Wilberforce University.

McLeod will also hire music teachers, redesign and develop the music curriculum for the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in music performance for instrumental vocal music and Bachelor of Science in music business with a technology component.

McLeod, who has a 27-year history of building such programs, said they will soon be accepting auditions for band scholarships to join the marching, band and the university choir will be next.

“The band program is an essential part of HBCU culture,” McLeod said. “The marching unit is a great source of pride and school spirit. It is our belief that in the rebuilding of the music department, the presence of a band would bring not only pride and school spirit, but also assist in reaching our enrollment goals exponentially.”

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Virgil Goodwine. Courtesy of Wilberforce University.

Virgil Goodwine. Courtesy of Wilberforce University.
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Virgil Goodwine. Courtesy of Wilberforce University.

McLeod said the university expects to have an operational ensemble in the spring of 2022, pending the arrival of the equipment.

The band, like other student-driven activities, will be recruited locally from the on-campus population, he said. The university will also seek students from the surrounding cities and states.

McLeod received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Mississippi Valley State University, a master’s in music education from Jackson State University, and a Master of Science in entertainment business from Full Sail University. In between teaching applied music, music appreciation and theory, writing music, directing videos, and creating graphic designs, McLeod is presently working on his Ph.D. in music education.

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Goodwine attended Colonel White School of the Performing Arts, received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Central State University, his Master of Science degree in music from the University of Dayton and his doctorate with a concentration in leadership in higher education research from Capella University. Most recently, he was a director of instrumental music for the Oak Park, Michigan schools in suburban Detroit.

Goodwine said he wanted the opportunity to build an HBCU marching band.

“Truthfully, the opportunity to create and build is the incentive,” he said. “There are various HBCU music programs dating back to the 1940s that have set traditions based on the director that began each program.”

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