What to Expect at the HBCU Battle of the Bands 2023

Expect an amazing spectacle at the 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands. Learn more about each band before seeing them in person on August 26.
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Published on August 16, 2023
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  • The HBCU Battle of the Bands features eight memorable performances.
  • HBCU dance teams add excitement and energy to band members' passionate playing.
  • The main event takes place on August 26, 2023, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
  • You can get a ticket for just $20 before fees.

As college football season approaches, athletes aren't the only ones practicing. Eight top HBCU marching bands will soon compete in the 2023 National Battle of the Bands (NBOTB).

The history of modern HBCU marching bands dates back to 1946 at Florida A&M College (FAMU). The FAMU band members' entertaining routines inspired nearly all other HBCU schools to establish similar marching bands. In the following decades, HBCU dance teams added new avenues for expressing Black and African American culture and spirit.

Today, the National Battle of the Bands in Houston, Texas, raises money for HBCU scholarships and attracts tens of thousands of spectators.

What Is the HBCU Battle of the Bands 2023?

Expect a dazzling performance at the 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands from eight of the nation's best HBCU marching bands. A Black Entertainment Television interview with participating students reveals that bands go above and beyond for these events, practicing their routines for over three hours every day.

The music makes up only half of the equation that goes into a stunning performance. Majorette dance teams combine pop culture, jazz, and ballet dancing in their routine. Elaborate costumes and props enhance the performance.

You will witness an event that energizes you for these amazing bands' performances throughout the 2023-2024 college football season.

Dates and Location

The 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands will take place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on August 26. The event begins at 6 p.m. If you can arrive early, take advantage of the free HBCU college fair at the nearby Wingate Houston Hotel.


Loud music and energetic performers give the National Battle of the Bands a carnival-like atmosphere. Expect the crowd's energy to rival that of a football national championship or concert by a major celebrity. Event sponsor Pepsi helps you make the most of your experience with informational and entertaining events leading up to the performances.

Back on the Yard Kickoff & Stroll Off Competition

The Back on the Yard Kickoff and Stroll Off Competition takes place on the Texas Southern University student plaza on August 25, 2023, at 5 p.m. This free event invites HBCU fraternities and sororities to participate in a dance-off to support their band performing the next day. Winning fraternities and sororities may receive up to $4,000 in prizes or donations.

Awards and Recognition

The 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands highlights the best musicians and dancers in the HBCU community. Although the competition does not declare a formal winner, all bands benefit from financial support from local and national businesses. In the 2022 event, participating bands split a $184,000 donation.

2023 HBCU Band Lineup

The 2023 Battle of the Bands features an eight-school lineup beginning with the university that started it all, FAMU. Many of these bands represent Southwestern Athletic Conference-member colleges.

Florida A&M University

Although FAMU's The Marching "100" dates back to the late 19th century, director William P. Foster turned the band into a marching powerhouse in the years after the Second World War. The techniques The Marching "100" developed now feature in many other college and high school marching band performances.

Langston University

LU's The "Marching Pride" Band provides students with opportunities beyond music and dance, such as leadership training for aspiring band directors. The band's appearance in the 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands comes at the end of a year-long touring schedule, with performances in southern Alabama and Louisiana.

Mississippi Valley State University

MVSU's The Green Marching Machine dates back to 1960. Just five years after its founding, it became the first African American marching band to play in The Tournament of Roses Parade. Scholarships keep the band thriving as the university faces challenges from shrinking enrollment.

Norfolk State University

More than 250 students and support staff make up The Spartan "Legion" Marching Band. Founded in 1975, the band's keynote performances include political events for presidential candidates, Mardi Gras celebrations, and many marching band competitions. The Spartan "Legion" Marching Band features over a dozen sections and allows men to join the dance team.

Southern University

SU's "The Human Jukebox" lives up to its name with over six decades of outstanding performances. The band has left its mark on venues that include Radio City Music Hall, the Louisiana Superdome, and The Rose Bowl Parade.

Tennessee State University

Advertising itself as "The Band of Firsts," TSU's Aristocrat of Bands was the first HBCU marching band to perform in an NFL halftime show and at a presidential inauguration. The band also performs regularly in its native Nashville as the official halftime band of the Tennessee Titans football team.

Texas Southern University

TSU's "Ocean of Soul" Marching Band came from humble beginnings after the Second World War, when the first band director Conrad Johnson played alongside students due to a lack of instruments and funding. The band came into its own in the late 1960s, adopting the signature uniform that defines it to this day.

Virginia State University

The VSU "Trojan Marching Explosion" traces its history to 1903, when fewer than 20 band members played for school sporting events. The band evolved into a modern marching band in the mid-1950s, and majorettes joined the performances in 1970.

Frequently Asked Questions About HBCU Battle of the Bands

Where is the National Battle of the Bands in 2023?

The 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands takes place at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Nearby Texas Southern University hosts The Back On The Yard Kickoff and Stroll Off Competition on August 25. You can also participate in the NBOTB Feed the Homeless event and the HBCU STEM College and Career Fair, both steps away from NRG Stadium.

Is there assigned seating at the HBCU Battle of the Bands?

You need a ticket for an assigned seat to attend the 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands. Tickets through Ticketmaster start at $20, with seats closer to the action priced at $45. These figures do not include fees.

Fortunately, many great seats remain for the 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands. Reserve yours today for an unforgettable experience.

How are bands selected for NBOTB?

The event organizing committee selects which bands participate in the National Battle of the Bands. The 2023 lineup offers a mix of returning schools and first-timers.

Other battles of the bands select participants through popular vote. Getting out the vote promotes school spirit at candidate schools.

Who won the 2022 National Battle of the Bands?

Despite the word "battle" in the title, the 2022 National Battle of the Bands did not declare a winner. Participating bands knew this going into the event, as organizers labeled it an exhibition rather than a competition. However, all bands walked away with some of the money raised by event organizers.

Are there any special performances or guest appearances during the HBCU Battle of the Bands?

The 2023 HBCU Battle of the Bands focuses solely on the young performers giving their all to the spectators packing the stands. However, other HBCU band competitions feature guest appearances from highly-ranked high school marching bands. Check event websites for the latest information about the performance lineup.