History of the Marching Rams

Records have determined the existence of an instrumental music program at Slater Industrial Academy (now Winston-Salem State University) as early as 1933. The ensemble was known as the Slater Industrial Academy Orchestra.

In 1925, Slater Industrial Academy became known as Winston-Salem Teachers College. The first tangible efforts in the direction of starting a band came between the years of 1937-1941. During this four year period, a group of young college students organized a musical group and named themselves the Teachers College Collegians. The Teachers College Collegians performed and played primarily dance music.

Fries Auditorium

The Auditorium was formerly located in the pit area in front of Diggs Gallery. It was also home to music offices and classrooms during that time.

Between 1943 and 1944, in an effort to stimulate growth and development with the band, the Winston-Salem Teachers College National Association created the “Band Project,” a fund raiser for the band program. The Association raised $1,507.25 to purchase eighteen (18) instruments for the band program. During that time the band played at chapel services each week.

The college’s first band was organized in 1945 under the direction of music instructor Hamlet Goore. Mr. Goore served as band director until 1950. During the five year period, 1945 to 1950, the organization made tremendous progress.

Teachers College Homecoming Parade

During the 50’s and early 60’s, not much information exists concerning the Winston-Salem State Teachers College Band. We do know that in 1966 or 1967, the band was under the direction of Mr. Harry Pickard.

In 1969 Dr. Fred Tanner became the band director. At the end of the ’69-’70 football season, the band was presented a plague for being the “Biggest Sound in the CIAA.” Many notable achievements occurred during the early and late ‘70’s which include:

  • Half-time performance for the Baltimore Colts, 1971
  • Afro-American Day Parade, New York City, 1974
  • Performance for the arrival of President Jimmy Carter, 1976
  • RJR Rodeo Parade
  • Parade for the new Masonic Lodge, Winston-Salem

In 1972, Winston-Salem State College became known and Winston-Salem State University. The notoriety of the band program excelled during Dr. Tanner’s career and the WSSU band became nationally recognized as one of the best instrumental ensembles in the country.

The program changed hands several times after Dr. Tanner relinquished the position. The most notable change occurred in 1994 when Mr. Emory Jones became the band master. Mr. Jones is a 1971 graduate of WSSU and he devoted ten untiring years to the WSSU band program. In his honor, The Emory Jones Scholarship in Music has been established.

Mr. Jones retired in 2004 and now the Winston-Salem State University Band is now under the direction of Dr. Michael Magruder. His no-nonsense approach to band and sound philosophy of band has transformed the entire instrumental band program at WSSU. According to Mr. John R. Posey of Urban Sports News, “I am writing a major feature on the top HBCU bands that I and my staff saw this fall. It will run in my publication, but may be picked up by several other media outlets. I have included you on the list....”

The Winston-Salem State University was once known as the “Marching Rams.” As of 2007 the band is now referred to as the WSSU “RED SEA OF SOUND” Marching Band. The band is comprised of 160 students majoring in Music Education, Music Business and other disciplines throughout the University.

The band’s versatility, showmanship and entertainment value is demonstrated each year during the fall semester at football games, parades and special events. The exhilarating features of the marching band include; dancers, flags, and four-five exciting, thrilling, high energy Drum Majors.

The “Red Sea of Sound” Marching Band has received numerous awards and countless recognition for outstanding performances. Several of the most noted performances include: the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the New York City Urban League Classic and most recently the Cleveland Classic. The “Red Sea of Sound” Marching Band has also performed with noted artist such as Donald Lawrence and Gerald Albright. In addition, the “Red Sea of Sound” was invited to Atlanta, GA to perform at the prestigious Honda Battle of the Bands in January of 2008, January 2011, January 2012, January 2013 and January 2014.

The band program is moving forward. The philosophy of maintaining a comprehensive approach to instrumental music requires all bandsmen to participate in the Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band or a small ensemble throughout the year. The overall acceptance of that approach has developed a quality instrumental music program.

The WSSU band program will continue to grow and develop. The change over the years has been significant, however we know….”THE BEST IS YET TO COME.”