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Wilberforce to release the 'Hounds of Sound' at Opening Day Parade

 The Wilberforce University "Hounds of Sound."
Wilberforce University
The Wilberforce University "Hounds of Sound."

Less than a year after forming, the Wilberforce University marching band is already gaining acclaim and stepping onto the music scene. Fresh off marching in four Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, the "Hounds of Sound" will make their Cincinnati debut in the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

Wilberforce, the nation's oldest, private historically Black college and university, relaunched its music program in August 2022, starting with reforming the university's marching band. Dayton-native Virgil Goodwine, Ph.d., was hired as assistant professor of music, and director of musical instruments and ensembles.

Goodwine got busy recruiting and auditioning members. The band cut the ribbon on a brand new facility in November and has a whopping 147 musicians and Royal Desire auxiliary members.

"That's a tribute to what I was doing last year, as well as the students who were interested in coming to Wilberforce and starting something new," Goodwine explains. "My pitch was there are plenty of band programs out there, but you can be a part of the ground zero in creating one, and that creates a legacy for your family. We all hear of the larger (HBCU) programs over the years and (how) they started maybe 30, 40, 50 years ago. So this is the ground zero for these students. That gained a lot of interest."

HBCU bands are known for their showmanship. The modern era of HBCU marching bands was introduced in the mid-1940s. Shows today feature high-stepping, high-energy performances chocked full of choreography, sound and crowd-pleasing entertainment.

Goodwine says HBCU bands are pros at catering the music to the audience.

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"We can play current hits. If you heard a song that just came on the radio three days ago, we'll be learning it within the next 30 minutes to have it ready to perform in two days for the audience," Goodwine explains. "Generally, HBCU bands are high entertainment, high energy, real strong sound, and cater the music towards the crowd because we like to enjoy people singing along and being able to have that song recognition."

It's been interesting and enjoyable, Goodwine says, to build the program. That means doing a lot of coaching and teaching that might otherwise be handled by older students, and establishing the band's culture as well as the music program.

He has big plans and hopes for the program, not just the marching band.

"I want to be the face of music programs in the Midwest," he says. "In terms of HBCUs, of course, there's Wilberforce and Central State, but for me, I just want to be music in general. Knowing that you have powerhouse programs like the University of Dayton, Wright State near us and UC 40 minutes away, and of course, everyone knows Ohio State, I would like to hopefully get Wilberforce in those conversations with those programs as an overall music department.

'They come to see the band'

Joni Bargaineer is a first-year student from Detroit, Mich. and is the head drum major. It's not often a first-year student walks into such an important leadership role, but Bargaineer says it's been great and he's learning a lot.

"It's a big step up and (I've) been maturing a lot and figuring out a few ways to get the best out of people ... I just love that, bringing the best out of people," he says.

He admits to having a few butterflies in his stomach the first time the Hounds of Sound took the field for their first show.

"But once I got on that field... with all those lights down on you and you see the crowd, you just have to make sure you're entertaining and put on a show for the people. That's what they came to see — even in football games, halftime shows — they come to see the band."

RELATED: Ohio's two historically Black universities merge some operations

Bargaineer says that's what Reds fans can expect on Opening Day, too, when the Hounds of Sound march through Cincinnati.

"They're definitely going to hear us, I can tell you that. We have a great drumline. Before we even play a song, the type of beat the drumline plays, they just put you in that type of groove."

He adds the drum major squad is going to be putting on a show, too.

"We just sound like a great band. It's only been eight months (but) when we're coming down the street, it may sound like a band that's been here for three or four years."

Copyright 2023 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.