Marching Royal Dukes

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Marching Royal Dukes
School James Madison University
Location Harrisonburg, Virginia, U.S.
Conference Colonial Athletic Association
Founded 1972
Director Scott Rikkers
Assistant director Amy Birdsong
Members 450 (Fall 2015)
Fight song ""

The Marching Royal Dukes are James Madison University's official marching band. Formed in 1972 (the same year as the football team), the "MRD's" perform at pre-game, halftime and post-game at all home football games, and travel with the team occasionally to perform at away and post-season games. In 1994, the MRD's were the recipients of the Sudler Trophy, the highest honor available for a college marching band.

The MRD's are the largest collegiate marching band in the nation, with 450 members (Fall 2015).[1] Nicknamed "Virginia's Finest", they have performed at venues such as the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the NFC title game between Washington and Dallas in 1983, Bands of America Grand National Championships in 1988 and 1991. The band has made three appearances in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, first in 2001, again in 2008, and most recently in 2013.[1] In the past decade, the band has taken trips to Europe during the school's winter break, featuring Athens, Dublin, Monocco, London, and Rome.[1] In the most recent trip to Europe, the MRD's participated in the 2015 Italian New Year's Day Parade in the Vatican.

The Marching Royal Dukes memorize two shows every year. Each show usually consists of at least three songs. Their music consistently spans across a variety of genres, from jazz and funk to musicals and movie themes. The second piece of each show always features the Dukettes, the university's award-winning dance team.

Marching band is offered as a two-credit applied music class at JMU, whereas most other universities it is solely an extracurricular activity.[citation needed] As a result, the Marching Royal Dukes continuously can retain a large roster and attract membership from students of almost every other field of study. MRD tryouts are open to all JMU students.

In addition to performances at JMU's football games, the Marching Royal Dukes record a new CD every year with selected songs from their show music. During the winter, the MRD's also participate in the annual Harrisonburg Holiday Parade.

Throughout the year, the Marching Royal Dukes provide support and training to local high school band programs. Every summer, JMU is the host of an annual band camp which welcomes students from across the state to attend and train with JMU staff. Later in the fall, the Marching Royal Dukes perform during exhibitions at local high school band competitions. In October, JMU is the host of the annual Parade of Champions, a large high school marching band competition in which attracts over 50 bands from across Virginia and other nearby states come to perform and receive scores.

Pep Band[edit]

During the basketball season, the JMU Pep Band, performs at all home games, both men's and women's. If either team plays in a postseason tournament, the band travels with them as well. With the men's basketball team winning the 2013 CAA tournament, the Pep Band also traveled with the team to the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio playing for two tournament games. The Pep Band is open to all members of the marching band, and has twice been named “Best Pep Band in the East” by Eastern Basketball Magazine.[1] In recent seasons the Pep Band debuted an arrangement of Start Wearing Purple, a song by the gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, at basketball games and both the 2013 CAA and NCAA Tournaments. The song has since taken off around campus to the extent that it is now on JMU Athletics billboards, theme music for videos, and starting in the 2013 Football Season, the Marching Royal Dukes will present it as a part of their pre-game show. In 2015, the Pep Band attended the Women's CAA Championship run. Once the team won the game, the coach of the team Kenny Brooks, gave Chad Reep, the pep band director at the time, the honor of the final person to cut down the net. In May of 2017, after a nationwide search, the JMU School of Music announced Amy Birdsong to be the new Assistant Director of the MRDs and Director of the JMU Pep Band.


  1. ^ a b c d "JMU Home/Marching Royal Dukes". James Madison University. Retrieved 2015-10-26.