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When Good Marching Bands Go Bad

Editor's Note: The deadline for our $50,000 Tuition Giveaway is January 31. Rather than nag you every day with a post that starts and ends with "TIME IS RUNNING OUT," we've decided to keep the scholarship top of mind by re-running some of our favorite college-centric stories and quizzes. Today's selection comes from our former marching band correspondent Steven Clontz.

In my first full-band rehearsal for my university's marching band, our director emphasized one thing: Class. Wherever we go, we are representatives of our state and university. Therefore, we must always be vigilant in portraying the best image possible. This dedication to class is, tragically, not universally shared. If you would, I'd like you to join me on a journey, examining the seedy underbelly of the marching band world. Maybe you'll find out what happens"¦ when MARCHING BANDS GO BAD!

1. University of Miami

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First stop on our tour of terror: Miami, Florida. The University of Miami banned its own band from performing during halftime for at least one football game in 1999, after band members on one bus were caught drinking, watching pornographic videos, and mooning passers-by on an away game road trip.

2. University of Wisconsin

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The Hurricanes could have learned from The University of Wisconsin, as far as avoiding the long arm of the law is concerned. UW's band was placed on probation just this past year, when accusations of hazing surfaced. The claims were of a relatively innocuous nature, at first, with one band member being pressured into shaving his head before a September 2006 game. Upon further investigation, it appeared that band members were also disrobing and dancing seminude on one of their buses returning home after the game. Crazy thing is, this type of behavior had been going on for years.

UW-Madison's Chancellor John Wiley: "It has become increasing clear that certain types of sexualized and hazing behavior are an ingrained part of the band's culture." I prefer my section's tradition of singing the word "trombones" to the tune of Amazing Grace, personally.

3. Prairie View A&M

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Let's move on to Prairie View A&M, facing off against Southern University. Shortly before the September 19, 1998 game, Prairie View was voted the nation's top historically black band. This slighted many members of the penultimate selection, Southern University's "Human Jukebox". What should have remained a distant flame war spilled over into a game, billed by many as simply The Battle of the Bands. (Prairie View's football team had a losing streak which had lasted for nearly a decade.)

What followed is open to interpretation. Southern's band had taken the field first, and was trying to exit via the sidelines, when they were blocked by Prairie View's band. Prairie View claimed that Southern's band was "charging" them, while Southern claimed that Prairie View was actively trying to stop them. Whatever the case, the result was Southern's drum major Terrell Jackson being smacked in the face by a couple trumpets. This, in turn, spurred on an all-out brawl, with members of both bands bludgeoning each other with drumsticks and trombones, sending many to the hospital. Perhaps Prairie View would have been better served sending their marching band out on the field to play football instead; once order was restored and play could continue, their losing streak was extended to eighty games. Instead, both bands were suspended for the next two games.

4. Stanford University

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But not all marching band aggression is taken out in fisticuffs (Tubacuffs?) The kids in the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band know that more damage can be dealt by attacking the heart and mind of your opponent. Strictly speaking, the LSJUMB isn't a marching band at all; rather, it is an example of a scatter band. Rather than using precise drill to move the band between formations, scatter bands, well, scatter between sets. In addition, a scatter band's show tends to be of a more satirical nature than your average marching ensemble. And of course, sometimes the jokes can get out of hand.

For example, consider Stanford's 1991 show at Notre Dame. Preceding halftime, the LSJUMB drum major was dressed like an Orthodox Jew. Kindly, he changed attire before their halftime show"¦and took the field dressed in a nun's habit. Apparently the Fighting Irish took offense to the use of a wooden cross as a conductor's baton; Stanford's band has been banned from Notre Dame's campus ever since. LSJUMB apologized in 1997 by dedicating another show to Notre Dame, "These Irish, Why Must They Fight?" The Catholic Church isn't the only group to be targeted by LSJUMB - their show during a game against Brigham Young University featured their drum major being betrothed to a member of their dance team, followed soon by the other four members. LSJUMB was suspended for unrelated hijinks off the field in 2006, helping them to embody the title of their 2004 album, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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