Crimson Piper Band
Tuskegee University’s band is the oldest HBCU marching band.
Marching Crimson Pipers
FACTS: Tuskegee was the first HBCU to have a marching band
At Tuskegee early bands were military style bands as they were at many colleges across the United States during this era.
Charles A. White 1894–1896
James W. Davis 1896–897
Captain Elbert V. Williams 1905–1907
Major N. Clark Smith 1907–1913
Major N. Clark Smith. Booker T. Washington recruited Smith as Commandant of Cadets at Tuskegee Institute. Smith formed the Tuskegee Cadet Marching Band. Mr Smith was known as “America’s Greatest Colored Band Master”. The band was later led by Frank Dye.
Captain N. Emerson Perkins 1913–1914
George B. Thornton 1914-1915
Captain Frank L. Drye 1915–1917
William Gary Thomas 1917–1918
J. W. Fentress 1918–1919
Captain Frank L. Drye headed the band again in 1919
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 1940’s Tuskegee established the School of Music to be the Department of Music, still headed by William L. Dawson.
Captain Frank L. Drye held the title of Head, Band Instruments, and Director of Bands.
Gilbert A. Baxter 1943–1944
Dr. William P. Foster 1944–1946 (Director of Bands at Florida A&M University 1946–1998)
Dr. William P. Foster came to Tuskegee Institute, where he continued to build the band. At the half-time of a campus football game between Tuskegee and a visiting team from Florida A&M, Foster’s band caught the attention of Florida A&M president William Gray who was attending the game. That evening, Gray met with Foster and offered him a job.Dr. William P. Foster arrived at Florida A&M campus in 1946.
Alton A. Davenport 1946–1956
Melville C. Bryant 1956-1960
Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt 1960–1963
Dr. Wyatt directed the Crimson Pipers in a new era of progress in musical performance with new marching techniques. In 1963, he presented Dr. William P. Foster, FAMU Director, as guest conductor in the spring concert of the Concert Band. He organized the “Continentals” Jazz Orchestra of 16 members in notable performances. Wyatt left Tuskegee to fulfill a military service obligation in the US Army (1963-1965).
Edward L. Graves 1963–1965 (Director of Bands at Tennessee State University 1979–2011)
Edward L. Graves, has served as Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee since 1979. Under Prof. Graves’ leadership, the Tennessee State band program has flourished and is appropriately named “The Aristocrat of Bands” for its prominence college band programs and its quality of musicianship.
Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt 1965–1971
Dr. Wyatt returned to Tuskegee in 1965 after service in the US Army. He directed the Crimson Pipers in new uniforms in a highly acclaimed 1969 performance at the Tuskegee-FAMU football game in Tallahassee, Florida. He was voted “Alabama College Band Director of the Year” in 1970. The Tuskeana yearbook was dedicated in his honor in 1970. He directed the Concert Band in annual tours of cities in the Southeast. Wyatt left Tuskegee on a study leave to complete doctoral studies (1971-1973).
Ronald J. Sarjeant 1971–1973
Dr. Lucius R. Wyatt 1973–1974
Dr. Wyatt returned to Tuskegee in 1973 after completing doctoral studies. He resigned in to accept an appointment as Director of the University Symphonic Band at Prairie View A&M University. At Prairie View he served as Chairman, Department of Music and Drama for 14 years and recorded four professional CD recordings as conductor of the Symphonic Band.
Ronald J. Sarjeant 1974–1976
Ronald J. Sarjeant (Director of Bands at South Carolina State University 1976–2004)
For 34 years, “Sarje,” as he is affectionately known, used the lessons he learned as a student under the tutelage of Dr. William P. Foster at Florida A & M University to create a style that would make him a legend. Upon graduation in 1970, Mr. Sarjeant became the Assistant Director of Bands at Tuskegee University and later became Director of Bands. While at Tuskegee, Mr. Sarjeant had the pleasure of serving as band director and mentor to a group of young men who would become some of the most revered entertainers in music.
In 1976, Mr. Sarjeant left Tuskegee to become the Director of Bands at South Carolina State University (SCSU) where he served for 28 years until his retirement in June 2004. The band would grow in size reaching nearly 300 members. Mr. Sarjeant developed the SCSU ”Marching 101″ Band into one of the top marching band programs in the country. Mr. Sarjeant died on June 22, 2012.
Mr. Warren L. Duncanhas been at Tuskegee since 1972, and has been Director of Bands since 1976. Warren L. Duncan, a graduate of Florida A&M University where he earned the Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education in 1971. He received his Master of Education degree from Auburn University in Alabama. As of 2013 Duncan has been at Tuskegee for over 41 years, the last 37 as Director of Bands. He also serves as Head of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, of which the band is a component. Duncan is married to the former Deidre D. Yates, a 1971 and 1972 Tuskegee alumnus.