The Best Band In the Land | The Marching Crimson Pipers

Under what many on campus coyly refer to as “The Shed,” a place to hide from the literal high beams of the sun, stands an unofficial landmark on the campus of Tuskegee. It’s from where for the past three years, band director and Tuskegee, Alabama native, John C. Lennard has given his marching orders.

“It’s important to me, for the community and the kids that are in our community, to see that there’s somebody from their hometown that came and did something great here in Tuskegee. I want to grow the band program. I want to make sure we responsibly grow our program into something that could really be amazing.”

Considerably small in size, compared to other HBCU bands, The Marching Crimson Pipers still execute on the pomp, circumstance and flair that’s often familiar to those who come out to each game. Led by 100 band members including, Piperettes, a flag line and four drum majors, the pride still runs deep.

“One of the things about the band, is that it teaches students how to process things,” says Mr. Lennard. “They learn how to break things down, how to stay focused on a mission, how to be confident in what they’re doing, how to prepare, how to use time wisely. All of these things that we do just to prepare a halftime show or to prepare to play at a game are elements they can use in their lives.”

You’ll find that the allure has many names, and it may even evolve over time. Tuskegee, currently the only black college designated a National Historic Site, needs no lure or pretense to keep the crowd crunk everyday. That’s the Tuskegee way.

“In the end, I want to know that I made an impact on this community. It’s important for me, not just for the university, but the whole town of Tuskegee because I’m a local product. I grew up in the school system. I mean, I literally went to nursery school and kindergarten in the building right next door to my office, so I’ve been around the world and come home.”

Film by James Bland // Photography by Elton Anderson // Archived Images courtesy of Tuskegee University Archives, Tuskegee, Alabama // Words by Chatel Theagene