Behind the Band with the JMU Marching Royal Dukes

Image: WHSV
Published: Oct. 6, 2016 at 6:17 PM EDT
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Every Saturday, thousands pour into Bridgeforth Stadium to watch the James Madison University Dukes play football --but also to watch the Marching Royal Dukes perform at halftime. A lot of work goes in before Saturday's performance. JMU's Marching Royal Dukes have played in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and played for the Pope. They're not just a part of JMU, but a representation of it. WHSV's Janson Silvers goes on the field to see what it takes to be a Marching Royal Duke.


A famous philosopher once said, "Without music, life would be a mistake."

Courtney Coffey, a Marching Royal Duke color guard captain and senior SMAD major at JMU, has this to say about her experience with the MRD: "It's incredible to be in this band. There are so many things I have gotten to do in my past four years, that I never would have done."

The James Madison University Marching Royal Dukes is far from being just another band. Most bands may have music majors and a couple other majors. But the MRD have at least one person from every single major offered at JMU: all 61 majors!

"It's cool to see how such different people can come together to create something, because no one on this color guard, or in this band are the same," said Coffey. "We all come from different backgrounds, we all came from different programs, different trainings --but we all came together to create one thing, together."

Nearly 500 students come together every gameday to put on a show, spending hours a week practicing to make their performance perfect.

But while they make it look easy, Janson learned first-hand that it's not as easy as it looks! You can see that our video.

But when it all comes together, Janson says, it's an incredible feeling.


Anytime the MRDs travel, it takes 11 charter buses or 7 flights for international trips.

The band has been to seven different countries: Monaco, France, Greece, Ireland, Germany, England, and Italy.

The Marching Royal Dukes have performed at the Macy's Day Parade, in front of governors, and even in front of the Pope himself.

All of these experiences account for a lifetime of memories.


Even with all the extra fun and excitement, the MRDs say it isn't about the things they do. It is about the people they do it with.

"It's a family; the Marching Royal Dukes is a family," said Coffey. "It is something I have never really experienced before, and it is something you don't really get to experience anywhere else."

No matter what happens throughout the week, everyone Janson spoke to says that when they hit the field on Saturday afternoon, everything else fades away except being with their 500 brothers and sisters and becoming one as the Marching Royal Dukes.

Coffey added: "No matter how long I have been performing and doing color guard, I am always terrified. I am always nervous. It is kind of like --it is a weird feeling. I know it is going to be okay, and I know I am going to have a lot of fun, but I am also terrified."


At the end of the day, they perform not for themselves, but for everyone else.

"There might be a little girl in the stands who sees one of us smiling, and spinning our flag or playing our instruments and be like, 'I want to do that one day,' and that might change their entire life." Coffey said. "They might decide to study music because they see the MRDs."

Their notes may end when the show is over, but their inspiring sound plays on.