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Tuskegee University Bands

Dr. J. William Nicholas, Director of Bands

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Woodwind and Brass

  • Chromatic scale (through practical range of instrument)
  • 12 Major Scales
  • Natural Minor Scales (concert pitch G, D, F)
  • Prepared Work (e.g., instrumental solo, all-state audition etude)
  • Sight Reading


  • Snare Drum
    • 1 rudimental solo (Hurley, Pratt, etc.)
    • 1 concert solo or etude (Cirone, Delécluse, Lepak, Firth, etc.)
    • Play a concert-style roll which crescendos from piano to fortissimo, and decrescendos back to piano over one minute.
  • Keyboards
    • 1 two-mallet solo or etude - ragtime solos, all state etudes, etc.
    • 1 four-mallet solo (not required, but highly recommended) 
    • Major scales and arpeggios - 2 octaves (these may be performed on xylophone, marimba or vibraphone)
  • Timpani
    • 1 solo or etude - Firth, Goodman, Hinger, Beck, etc. (tuning and pitch matching will be tested)

*Keyboard and/or snare drum sight reading will be required of all percussionists who audition.*


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The early Tuskegee Band

The Tuskegee University Marching Crimson Piper Band has enjoyed a long history of excellence. At the tender age of 25 years (1906), Tuskegee Institute could boast of a well-organized band of 35 pieces and an 18-piece orchestra. Organizationally, the band was part of the Military Department, an administrative arrangement of several years’ duration. Captain Elbert V. Williams was bandmaster and Captain N. Emerson Perkins succeeded him. George B. Thornton served as acting bandmaster during 1914-15, on a part-time basis, after which Captain Frank L. Drye was appointed bandmaster of the 45-member Tuskegee Institute Band.

In 1931, the School of Music was established under the directorship of William L. Dawson. The band became a component of the newly formed department. In the 1940s, it became the Department of Music, still headed by Dawson. Captain Drye held the title of Head of Band Instruments, and Director of Bands. The band, consisted of 75 pieces including drum majors, juvenile drum majors, majorettes and herald trumpeters.

Subsequent directors of the Tuskegee Marching Band have been Dr. William P. Foster (Director of Bands Emeritus at Florida A&M University), Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt (former Director of Bands at Prairie View A&M University), Edward Graves (Director of Bands at Tennessee State University), Ronald J. Sarjeant (retired Director of Bands at South Carolina State University), and Warren L. Duncan (Director of Bands Emeritus and Chairman of the Dept. of Fine and Performing Arts at Tuskegee University).


Dr. J. William Nicholas

The Tuskegee University Band is under the direction of Dr. J. William Nicholas, a native of Orlando, FL.

Nicholas earned the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in band conducting at the University of South Carolina. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music education from Florida A&M University and Florida State University. His professional affiliations include the Golden Key International Honor Society, National Association for Music Education, and Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity.

Nicholas recently served as the Adjunct Director of Bands at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he conducted the Wind Ensemble and taught instrumental conducting. As an avid tuba player, Nicholas most recently performed as an on-call musician for several churches in the Orlando area. During his undergraduate study, he served as a principal tubist in the Florida A&M University Wind Ensemble and performed in numerous University chamber ensembles and chamber ensembles around the "Big Bend."

Nicholas is well-known in the secondary school band community; he has arranged for several bands across the southeastern United States over the last decade, including over ten high schools. From 2014 to 2019, he served as Director of Bands at Jones High School in Orlando, Florida. He grew the band program to 110 students, significantly increased student participation in audition-based honor bands, and earned consistent superior ratings on the District and State level. In 2018, in conjunction with the Jones High School Wind Ensemble, the Jones High School Concert Choir, garnered national attention on the "Ellen" show after receiving a $100,000 donation to fund a trip to perform at Carnegie Hall. 

Additionally, he has arranged for the Edward Waters College "Triple Threat" Marching Band and the Allen University "Band of Gold" Marching Band. Nicholas has also served as a Session Coordinator for presentations at the Florida Music Educators Association Conference. 


Instructional Staff

J. William Nicholas, Director of Bands
Rickey Oglesby, Assistant Director of Bands and Percussion Instructor
Robin Cobb, Crimson Piperette Coordinator
Cierra Kenerly, Twirling Divas Coordinator
Gerriod Sharp, Drum Major Coordinator

Operations Staff

JeGayde Colvert, Announcer
Stefan Smith, Media Coordinator
Tyrone Jackson, Facilities Manager
Jabari Leslie, Operations Manager
Brandon Brown, Operations Manager


The Marching Crimson Pipers (MCP)

Band Motto -- "Setting standards is what we have done…Maintaining those standards is what we do every day." 

Academic Motto --  “It is more important to march across the stage than it is to march across the field."

Archived photo of early band marching along street

The high-stepping Tuskegee University Marching Crimson Pipers (MCP) is part of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. The Tuskegee University Band Program consists of four band components: 

  • Marching Band
  • Concert Band
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Basketball Pep Band

The MCP have enjoyed a long history of excellence, including major appearances in the highly acclaimed Honda Battle of the Bands.  This SIAC portion of the Annual Invitational Showcase is usually held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA and features marching bands from 10 participating Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's). The event attracts and thoroughly entertains nearly 65,000 fans. 


Originally, the band was part of the Military Department. Hence, the bandmasters were military captains. In 1931, the School of Music was established under the directorship of William L. Dawson.

  • Charles A. White 1894–1896 
  • James W. Davis 1896–1897 
  • Captain Elbert V. Williams 1905–1907 
  • Major Nathaniel Clark Smith 1907–1913 
  • Captain N. Emerson Perkins 1913–1914  
  • George B. Thornton 1914-1915  
  • Captain Frank L. Drye 1915–1917 
  • William Gary Thomas 1917–1918 
    Early band marching
  • J. W. Fentress 1918–1919 
  • Captain Frank L. Drye headed the band again in 1919 
  • Gilbert A. Baxter 1943–1944 
  • Dr. William P. Foster 1944–1946 (Director of Bands Emeritus at Florida A&M University 1946–1998) 
  • Alton A. Davenport 1946–1956  
  • Melville C. Bryant 1956-1960  
  • Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt 1960–1963 
  • Edward L. Graves 1963–1965 (Director of Bands at Tennessee State University 1979–2011) 
  • Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt 1965–1971 
  • Ronald J. Sarjeant 1971–1973 
  • Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt 1973–1974   
  • Ronald J. Sarjeant 1974–1976 (Director of Bands at South Carolina State University 1976–2004) 
  • Warren L. Duncan 1976-2014 (Director of Bands Emeritus) 
  • John Q. Lennard 2014-2021 (Director of Bands)
  • Warren L. Duncan 2021-May 31, 2022 (Interim Director of Bands)
  • Dr. J. William Nicholas June 1, 2022 - present (Director of Bands)


Some of the distinguished band alumni include: 

  • William L. Dawson (famed choral director and arranger)
  • Ralph Ellison (writer)
  • Lionel Richie (music icon/ member of the Commodores)
  • William King (trumpet player for the Commodores)
  • Ronald LaPread (bass player for the Commodores)
  • Conrad Hutchinson Jr. (legendary band director of Grambling State University “World Famed” Marching Band)
Early majorettes


For nearly 100 years, the Marching Crimson Pipers, known for their unique marching style, powerful music arrangements, intricate dance steps and quality presentations by the dancing piperettes, flag line and soulful drum majors, have performed at:

  • Soldier Field (Chicago)
  • Crosley Field (Cincinnati)
  • Tampa Stadium (Tampa)
  • The Tangerine Bowl (Orlando)
  • Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (Atlanta)
  • Georgia Dome (Atlanta)
  • Browns Stadium (Cleveland)
  • Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis)
  • Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
  • Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg)
  • Legion Field (Birmingham)
  • Rynearson Stadium (Ypsilanti, Mich.)
  • Cardinal Stadium (Louisville)
  • Rice Stadium (Houston)
  • Texas Stadium (Dallas)
  • The Stagg Bowl - NCAA Division III Championship Football Game (Phenix City)
  • Mardi Gras Parade (Mobile)
  • Governor’s Inaugural Parade (Montgomery)
  • The Peanut Festival (Dothan)
  • The band was featured on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” (Los Angeles)
  • The Senior Bowl (Mobile)
  • and numerous other stadiums, parades and functions throughout the nation.
Early majorettes in color


The Honda Battle of the Bands program includes two components. The Celebration Tour provides an opportunity for 45 participating schools from around the country to earn a $1,000 grant for their halftime performances at selected football games during the fall.

At the end of the Tour, the 10 bands that demonstrate the most showmanship, musicianship and fan interaction will be invited to the Invitational Showcase. Each of the 10 schools selected will receive an additional funds toward its scholarship fund. The invitees will include the two top bands from each of the four HBCU athletic conferences (CIAA, SWAC, MEAC, SIAC) and two independent schools.

The selection process is based solely on a three-tiered process. Thirty-three percent of the vote will be from the on-line fan voting at . Thirty-three percent will be from the commissioners of the four conferences and school presidents, and thirty-three percent will be from the band directors. Commissioners, presidents and band directors are not allowed to vote for their own school(s). All on-line surveys must be completed and submitted by the deadline.

The Marching Crimson Pipers of Tuskegee University, now under the direction of Dr. J. William Nicholas, historically brought a large number of fans to the Georgia Dome, which seemed to fuel the Crimson Pipers' already dynamic program and performance.


Scholarships (participation grants) are available by audition. For more information, contact: Dr. J. William Nicholas, Director of Bands, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL. 36088; email or call 334-724-4789


How much is a band scholarship? Band scholarship awards are merit-based. This means that your scholarship award will be based on the strength of your audition and the personnel needs of the program.

What should I play for my audition? A chromatic scale (full, comfortable range of your instrument), major scales A natural, B-flat, and E natural, and a selection of your choice. You may play any solo or etude for your instrument. You can even play an excerpt or excerpts from some of your band music! Choose something that demonstrates your very best playing and try to exhibit both technical and lyrical playing. You should play accurately, with all the correct notes and rhythms, along with expressive dynamics and a steady tempo.

Do I need an accompanist? NO. If you play something accompanied, you can simply play it without the accompaniment. If you do have an accompanist, that is acceptable, but it will not factor into your scholarship award.

Do I need to play a marching instrument in my audition? NO. Tuba and baritone players may play a concert or marching instrument. Mellophone players may audition on French horn, but preference will be given to those who audition on mellophone.

Does the music need to be memorized? NO. Memorization is not a component of your scholarship audition.

Does it matter what I wear for my video? Wear anything you like – you do not need to dress formally. Dress comfortably and play well!

How am I being evaluated? Members of the TU Bands staff will view your video and evaluate you based on tone quality, technique, expression, and rhythmic/pitch accuracy.

What is the deadline for sending my video? Videos may be submitted beginning October 3, 2022. Priority will be given to students who perform live or submit video auditions prior to December 5, 2022. Auditions will continue to be accepted as funds are available.
Do I need a letter of recommendation? No, it is not required. However, your director or teacher may submit one on your behalf. It should be emailed to

How many students do you accept? We currently have openings in all sections!

May I audition on more than one instrument? Yes. If you perform proficiently on more than one instrument, we will contact you to discuss which you would like to play.

How and when will I know if I earned a scholarship? Notification of scholarship awards generally takes around two weeks. You will be notified by email.

What happens next? Your scholarship award email will include instructions for registration, as well as a complete schedule of events for the fall.

Can my friend from the same school and I be in a video together? No. Only you should be in your audition video.


Dr. J. William Nicholas, Director
Tuskegee University Bands
Chambliss Music Hall, Rm. 107
1200 W. Montgomery Rd.
Tuskegee, AL 36088
Phone: 334-724-4789
Fax: 334-724-4295