Grambling State to field first female drum major since 1950s

Candace Hawthorne is the second female drum major in the university marching band's history

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Grambling State University’s (GSU) marching band has added a woman to its drum major ranks for the first time in generations.

Candace Hawthorne, a senior double majoring in engineering technology and music, will be the first woman to help lead the World Famed Tiger Marching band since Velma Patricia Patterson in 1952 when she takes the field this fall semester, according to HBCU Gameday.

She will be joined by fellow senior Deante Gibson and Sheavion Jones, a junior, in commanding the band. Gibson is a marketing/management major, while Jones is studying marketing at the historically Black university (HBCU) in Grambling, Louisiana.

Candace Hawthorne is just the second female drum major in Grambling State University marching band’s history. (via Twitter)

Hawthorne said her addition as a drum major is “mind-blowing.”

“I never would have expected for me to make history like this. I am so honored,” she said, as reported by the outlet.

Jones said he will take on the role as head drum major.

“As head drum, I know I have a lot of eyes on me,” Jones said in HBCU Gameday. “And those eyes are pushing me to encourage my fellow bandsmen to push themselves to the greatest potential, give 110% and give the people what they like—a show-stopping performance.”

Fans and well-wishers celebrated Hawthorne’s accomplishment on social media.

“Congratulations Candace Hawthorne on being the first female Drum Major of the World Famed in 70 years,” Twitter user @GramFanatics said.

“World Famed has a female drum major after 70 years!!! Let’s goooo!!! I love to see that BlackGirlMagic!!!” @_ogdalyiabee said in a tweet.

Fans are excited to see a Black woman on such a big stage, but there are those who feel that GSU should be taken to task for the seven-decade gap between female drum majors.

“I love this but how tf has it been 70 years and this is the 2nd Female Drum major? Do better Gram,” a Twitter user with the handle @DJRayne_ said. “I’m sure there have been women who auditioned for this role that could’ve filled it.”

Hawthorne will get her first experience with The World Famed Tiger Marching band on Sept. 5. GSU will travel to Canton, Ohio, to battle Tennessee State University in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Game at 3 p.m., according to the school’s official webpage.

GSU, a team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), canceled fall sports last year as universities responded to the health crisis, as reported by WDSU. Several other conferences that house HBCU’s football teams also called off the season last year, including Mid-Easter Athletic Conference (MEAC),  Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), according to The Undefeated.

Dr. Nikole Roebuck, GSU’s Director of Bands, is anticipating the band’s return to the field after the 2020 football season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year was very different not being able to have a season so it feels good to be back,” she said, as reported by HBCU Gameday. “We have a new set of drum majors this season who are very eager to show what they are made of.”

The Black College Football Hall of Fame will be honoring both the classes of 2020 and 2021 this year, which includes GSU alum James “Hound Dog” Hunter.

GSU’s World Famed Tiger Marching Band was voted fourth best HBCU marching band in 2019, as previously reported by theGrio. Norfolk State University’s Spartan Legion was voted No. 1 on an online poll, while North Carolina A&T and Southern University respectively rounded out the top three slots.

GSU received 4,767 of the total 37,032 votes.

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