HBCU Marching Bands & Harlem Renaissance

Strike Up the Band: HBCUs Marching Into the Harlem Renaissance is a virtual panel discussion highlighting band director James Reese Europe.
Saturday, Dec 12th at 4pm.
RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/strike-up-the-band-hbcus-marching-into-the-harlem-renaissance-tickets-131726789373?aff=erelexpmlt

About this Event

Strike Up the Band: HBCUs Marching Into the Harlem Renaissance is a virtual panel discussion highlighting the influence band director James Reese Europe, drum major Noble Sissle had on the development of today’s HBCU marching bands. The precision and skill these legendary musicians honed during their military service was passed on by members of the Harlem Hell fighters who, upon returning to the United States, became band directors at these colleges and universities.

Our illustrious panel will lead the audience on a musical time travel journey of music from Africa to America, providing a real-time example of musical syncopation. They’ll also delve into the role the Puerto Rican band members played in honoring their musical style and history and their contributions to The 369th band. Lastly, our dance expert will highlight the dances made popular as a result of The 369th band’s music and how those dances influence the marching band performances and halftime shows of today. Noble Sissle, Jr. will round out the discussion with a look at how military bands influenced not only HBCU bands, but also the Broadway musical Shuffle Along, which was part of the Harlem Renaissance.

This project represents a full circle musical movement as the first Black college football game in the United States was between Biddle College and Livingstone College. Our current 369th Experience band director hails from Livingstone College.

Our project’s goal is to celebrate the Harlem Hell fighters and their contributions to music as we approach the centennial of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Broadway musical Shuffle Along.

Panel Participants:


As Executive Producer for The 369th Experience, Inc., Stephany Neal manages the organization’s executive programs and develops and projects and educational activities–domestically and internationally–commemorating the contributions of the African American Harlem Hellfighters who fought in the 369th Regiment in Europe during World War 1 and first introduced jazz to Europe.

ANTHONY S. JONES, Sr. Director of Bands Livingstone College

Mr. Anthony S. Jones, Sr. M.M. Ed. -Mr. Jones earned the Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Carolina n Greensboro, a Master of Music Education from Winthrop University and is currently pursuing the Doctor of Philosophy in Music Education from Gardner-Webb University. Mr. Jones has been an adjudicator, clinician and musical arranger for the state of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and Texas. Mr. Jones served as a music educator in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg school district for 27 years. He has served as an Assistant Band Director at Johnson C. Smith University. Mr. Jones also serves as the Assistant Orchestra Director for the National Baptist Congress. Mr. Jones has performed and worked with jazz notables Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Christian McBride, Marcus Roberts, Will Downing, Thelonious Monk, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Jon Baptiste and Oscar Winner, and Steve McQueen. Mr. Jones is now currently the Livingstone College Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music located in Salisbury, North Carolina.


BOBBY SANABRIA is a 7-time Grammy nominated bandleader, drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, educator, educator, multicultural warrior and Co-Artistic Director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center.

His diverse recording and performing experience includes a work with legendary figures like Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Paquito D’ Rivera, Charles McPherson, and The Godfather of Afro-Cuban Jazz, Mario Bauza. A noted educator and clinician, Mr. Sanabria is a faculty member in the Jazz Department at New York University and the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School. Mr. Sanabria attended Boston’s Berkelee College of Music, obtaining a Bachelor of Music degree and receiving the prestigious Faculty Association Award for his work as in instrumentalist. He is a leader in the Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and jazz fields as both a drummer and percussionist and is recognized as one of the most respected musicians=scholars of la tradition living today.


ELENA MARTINEZ is the co-artistic director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center, and folklorist at City Lore since 1997. Her current project involves researching the Afro-Puerto Rican participation in the 369th Regimental Band. She has been working with the 369th Regimental Historical Society and the World War I Centennial Commemoration 369th Experience to archive the sheet music from the Historical Society and received a 2015 LARAS (Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) grant to aid in their preservation.


MERCEDES ELLINGTON. Dancing into the Harlem Renaissance Mercedes Ellington is a Broadway and television tap dancer, choreographer, director and producer who has preserved and extended the musical legacy of her grandfather, Duke Ellington. Mercedes began her dance training as a child and won a scholarship to the Metropolitan Opera School of Ballet, where she made her New York City Opera debut in 1977. Upon completion she graduated from Juilliard. She broke the color barrio on national television in the 60s by appearing on the Jackie Gleason Show as one of the June Taylor Dancers. She was on the show for seven years, and eventually became captain of the troupe and June Taylor became and remained a mentor to Mercedes throughout her career. Shortly after her television tenure, she launched her Broadway career as a featured and chorus dancer in No, No Nanette, Oh Kay!, Happy New Year, The Grand Tour, and Harry Chapin’s The Night That Made America Famous. From 1982 to 1992 Ms. Ellington was the artistic director of Balletap, USA, aka DancEllington


NOBLE SISSLE, Jr., son of Noble Sissle, a trailblazer in music, Broadway and civic engagement, has been a leader in economic development in Florida since 1970. Born in New York City, he graduated from Florida A&M University with a degree in Accounting.

An “invitation” from his local Draft Board led to his induction into the army in 1966, serving in Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division throughout 1967. Returning to Florida, Mr. Sissle obtained a Master of Education degree and began a 29-year career of service under grants to assist minority businesses and low-income residents across the state. For over 15 years he has assisted non-profit organizations with management assistance and grant writing. After retirement he, his sister and two sons have embarked on a mission to produce written and Internet content on the legacy of his father. In the meantime, he spends a great deal of time with his 5 grandsons under the age of 13, educating them on the history of Great Granddad.



The 369th Experience is part of a series of events endorsed by the World War I Centennial Commission and sponsored in part by The Coca Cola Foundation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I.

A key component of this celebration is the recreation of the 369th Regimental Band, the band, which in its original form, consisted of 65 African American and Puerto Rican gentlemen who charmed the hearts and minds of Americans and Europeans.

Led by Bandmaster, James Reese Europe and Drum Major and Lead Vocalist, Noble Sissle, the famous Harlem Hell Fighters regimental band’s spirited arrangements of ragtime, jazz and blues first introduced European audiences to the novel sounds of this American music.

Funded by a generous grant from The Coca Cola Foundation, this new 369th Experience Student Band will be taught the history and repertoire of the original Harlem Hell Fighters Band and will retrace their steps of the, performing the band’s repertoire at centennial celebrations in New York City; Brest and Paris, France; and a host of other historical locales.


Donations appreciated.

The 369th Experience is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.