The Marching Eagles: A Family Tradition
Since 2009, the sounds of the LHA Marching Eagles can be heard practicing up and down Trafalgar Street and performing along multiple parade routes. The over 100-member marching unit is a staple of the community and, for one family, a tradition. The tradition started in 2015 when then 8th grader Jahmad Randolph was selected as the LHA Drum Major. This special position is reserved for a student who has shown dedication and commitment to the band. Band director, Mr. Venable, or “Mr. V” as everyone calls him, selects the student each year. This student is given this honor based on the years they have served in the band, their display of leadership skills, and their ability to give feedback to multiple band members playing different instruments. “It was such an honor to be the drum major. You are who everyone looks to, you are the first face everyone sees for the marching band. You are the first man up; you set the tone,” said Jahmad.
While Jahmad was busy leading the marching band, he noticed pretty early on that his younger brother, Markiaj, was also interested in music. As it turns out, Markiaj would grow up to follow in his big brother’s footsteps, serving as the current drum major for the LHA Marching Eagles.
“I had a feeling Markiaj would be in the band and eventually the drum major! It all started when he was about four years old. He would come home from daycare, and I would see him trying to play my trumpet, mimicking my moves in the band,” said Jahmad. “When he was about six and in the first grade at LHA, I would bring him to practice, and he would be our little mini drum major.”
Markiaj remembers those moments when he was able to learn from his brother and uses what he learned to be the drum major that he is today. “It was a family thing for me; I knew I wanted to take what my brother taught me and become the sort of leader I saw in him. He inspired me to join the band and then to be the leader,” said Markiaj.
As the current drum major, Markiaj uses the fundamentals of the Marching Eagles: self-control, understanding musical notes, patience, practice, and prep for parade season to help lead, but he holds close to him a lot of what he learned from his brother. “I view my role as the drum major as sort of a big brother. I want to set the same example that Jahmad set for me,” said Markiaj. “I am also still learning from him. Jahmad will call me and ask how things are going with the band and give me tips and feedback on the perfect moves. I am still trying to perfect my crab walk!”
Markiaj sets the tone by making sure his fellow band members are on time to practice, that they are getting schoolwork done, and ensuring accountability is in place. “I want them to see me doing all of these things correctly and know that is the standard for being a Marching Eagle.” Markiaj knows that these things are all key to that moment when they are performing in front of thousands. “When we have all these things in place, we have practiced and coordinated, I have made sure I have my routine down, everyone else knows their parts, then we know we are ready,” says Markiaj.
“I also like to remind everyone the importance of never playing louder than the person next to you,” Markiaj says with a smile. “We are one band with one sound.”
For big brother Jahmad, now a music education student and member of the Southern University Human Jukebox, music has continued to set the path for his career. He is currently one of three section leaders in the mellophone section of the band with big plans to return back to LHA after graduation.
“I know I’d have big shoes to fill, but I would love to come back and be like Mr. V and lead the Marching Eagles,” says Jahmad. “Mr. V was more than just a band director or music teacher for me. He was like a father figure, he was everything that some of us needed and more. He made sure I studied so I could go to a good high school and college. I plan to do the same for LHA students when it is my time.”
The love of music that Jahmad and Markiaj share is also shared with their younger brother Aiden, who is also a member of the Marching Eagles. Jahmad is proud of both of his brothers and knows the future is bright for them.
“It is humbling to know Markiaj has looked up to me as a drum major. I always tell him nothing is too hard or too big for him to accomplish,” says Jahmad. “ I am proud of him, and in terms of skills, I think he has me beat!”
Be sure to check out the LHA Marching Eagles in the Knights of Chaos on 2/16, Krewe of NOMTOC on 2/18, Krewe of Okeanos on 2/19, and closing out the Mardi Gras season with the Krewe of Zulu on 2/21.