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A Harmonic Legacy - Woodward Career Technical High School’s Marching Band Performs at Circle City Classic

While the Woodward High School Marching band only consists of nearly 30 students, you would be forgiven for calling their performance at the Circle City Classic symphonic for the lasting impression it had on its band members. While the students may have conducted their routine marching performance; it also acted as a tribute to the enduring legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), deeply ingrained in Woodward Career Technical High School’s own history.

Students Marching in Woodward GymCircle City Classic is a yearly battle between two HBCUs in Indianapolis with a strong emphasis on marching band and parade performances before, during and after the headlining football game. Woodard’s legendary band had the opportunity to participate in the pre-game parade as well as attend with free admission to the game. 

“There’s a lot of things I want to bring to my students. I didn’t have an opportunity to play in front of HBCUs when I was in school, so I’m trying to give it to my students now,” said Tyree Gilbert, Band Director at Woodward Career Technical High School. “Things like this keep them motivated a lot, and some students will come to me and say ‘The reason why I come to school is for band, so I have to come to school on time, make good grades so I can stay in with the program.’ So, I try to get bands like Central State or things like that for them.”

Gilbert said his time performing in Alabama State University’s Mighty Marching Hornets and The Central State Invincible Marching Marauders bands made him connections to other college directors, something he has already put to use getting the students not only a chance to march in the leading parade for the Circle City Classic but also a private performance in the Woodward gym from North Carolina Central University’s band, The Sound Machine. 

Gilbert said that as a student, he was inspired by Ohio’s Riverfront Classic — now called the Ohio Classic — to pursue a higher education by performing in an HBCU band. Similarly, the performance held during the weekend parade as well as the private showing at the school proved to be an insight into the future for some students in the band. 

“As of right now, I’ve been looking at Wilberforce University once I graduate, so having the opportunity to play in this parade is really cool,” said Sirron Baker, senior and trombone player for the Woodward High School Marching Band. 

Baker is talking with the Wilberforce Band Director and hopes to continue playing his instrument for the University’s prestigious “Hounds of Sounds” marching band. 

"It's another connection because, most of the time, kids are not familiar with the HBCUs,” said Woodward Interim Principal and HBCU alum, Sam Yates. “In Ohio, you only have two, Central State and Wilberforce, and when I was coming up I would have never heard of Central State until their band director came down and was like ‘We can give out scholarships if you guys play for us.’” 

After enrolling in Central State, Yates would later become a drum major for their band program. Yates explained that the HBCU experience made a lasting impression on him, leading to both his daughters and his granddaughter graduating from his alma mater. 

For the students of Woodward Career Tech, these performances act as an acknowledgment of their own potential to contribute to a vibrant legacy and their potential futures.