As anybody who loves the sound of a college marching band should know, the Sudler Trophy is awarded every year to a band that exhibits the highest musical standards and innovative marching routines and ideas, and which has made important contributions to the advancement of the performance standards of college marching bands over a period of time. You get the drill.
Many great universities have earned their Sudler Stripes, so to speak. But there are many great bands that have proven, at least in my eyes and ears, to be worthy of the Sudler...yet aren't awarded the trophy. Here is my top 10 list of bands that I feel should get this one.
1. The University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band.
Hello. This is a band that has been here and there and everywhere, from Rome, to Shanghai, to Japan, to Seville, to EuroDisneyland in Paris, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to playing music for Pope John Paul II...and they haven't been given the Sudler.
If the John Philip Sousa Foundation continues to remove The Spirit of Troy (and its "drive-it" sound of marching) from consideration of winning the Sudler, this is akin to The Ventures not being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which finally inducted them earlier this year).
2. The Ohio University Marching 110.
Okay, Ohio State got their Sudler in the year I was born. But what about the OHIO University? Yes, the one without the "STATE" in it. They call themselves "The Most Exciting Band in the Land," yet they haven't earned the Sudler Trophy yet. They can do a rousing rendition of "Long Train Runnin'," but one can concur that the Sousa Foundation "Ain't Been Good" to this showstopper from Athens.
3. Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band.
This was the band that, along with the football teams coached by the great Eddie Robinson, put GSU on the map. Coca Cola commercials, Super Bowl XXXII, and the inauguration of former Liberian president William Tolbert, and US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama...give it to these guys already!
4. University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band.
You talk about longevity and a commitment to musical excellence, and you talk about Tennesee's marching band, formed in 1869, a few years after the Civil War. Not only do you have a band that brought the circle and flower drills, along with its T-formation, but you have a band that has been to all the BCS bowl, as well as a St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin last year. It's a piece of Americana that has never wavered, and so it makes this list.
5. University of California - Berkeley Marching Band.
Seeing UCLA, Cal's younger brother, get the Sudler while they don't, has to be depressing, if not harbor feelings of jealousy and contempt. This band, the "Pacesetter of College Marching Bands," brought the flying wedge, the "Script Cal" and the full-field spread, along with "marching a spot"—eight steps for five yards to set the stage for some showstopping action.
According to the Band's Alumni Association, this was one of the first to weave show-charting with traditional flows. A unique form of marching that has to put this band into consideration.
6. University of Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish.
Here is a band that has not been given the dues it deserves by the Sousa Foundation. Aside from the "Victory March," the Band of the Fighting Irish is a "Landmark of American Music" by the National Music Council, the Indiana Music Educators Association and Exxon Corporation during the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial.
A proud band with a legacy of pageantry and musical prowess, Notre Dame has to have a Sudler Trophy coming its soon, and I mean real soon.
7. Jackson State University Sonic Boom of the South.
Returning to the treasure trove that are the black college marching bands, Jackson State University's band deserves to be given a Sudler Trophy. An integral part of the American heritage, the band has been involved with Motown's 30th anniversary television special, the NAAC Image Awards, EA Sports and is enshrined in the NCAA Hall of Champions.
Throw in its signature "Tiger Run-On" shuffle step, and you have a strong case for a Sudler Trophy-quality band.
8. Florida State University Marching Chiefs.
The War Chant is not the only gift from Chief Osceola and his band to the world. With over 400 students, Florida State's marching band has been touted to "never lose a halftime show" according to Sports Illustrated in 1982. Also, it has performed internationally, with tours to Jordan and the United Kingdom among its destinations.
9. Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners.
To start, this band has a Drum Corps International drum and bugle section that plays over the summer. As I see it, if you have section that competes with the likes of the Santa Clara Vanguard, the Cavaliers (not Virginia's band), the Phantom Regiment and the Blue Devils (no, not Duke's band)...you're in mighty good company.
This is an all-around group of musicians whose plaudits need to be recognized by the people at the Sousa Foundation. Now, if only you could be able to win a trophy or two at the DCI championships...
10. Northwestern State University "Spirit of Northwestern" Marching Band
Okay, so there is a school called Northwestern that has already won this trophy. But did you know there's another one called Northwestern that should be considered for Sudler honors? I'm talking about Northwestern STATE University of Nachitoches, Louisiana.
Aside from achieving in the classroom and reaping the benefits of leadership through music and marching, A recent article from Qunnipiac University has placed the Spirit of Northwestern among its top eight bands, along with inductees from Michigan, James Madison, Georgia, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.
I have added a poll so you can decide who to vote for. But if none of these universities deserve to be given the Sudler Trophy, tell me who YOU think should be awarded this trophy. Let the debating begin!