“And now, presenting ‘Virginia's Finest’ . . . The James Madison University Marching Royal Dukes!”
This familiar announcement begins each exciting performance as one of America’s premier collegiate marching bands takes the field with its exciting music and fast-paced movement. From humble beginnings in 1972, the first year of JMU football, the Marching Royal Dukes quickly moved to the fast track of college bands in America.
Among their many awards and performances, the MRDs have performed at NFL games in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington. In 1983, they were the featured halftime show for the NFC title game between Washington and Dallas. They have been performers for Walt Disney Productions. In 1988 and 1991, they were the featured exhibition band at the Bands of America Grand National Championships.
In 1994, the John Philip Sousa Foundation named the Dukes recipients of the Sudler Trophy, known as the “Heisman Trophy of college marching bands.” In 1997 and 2001, they were featured in the inaugural parades for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 2002, 2006, and 2010 they performed at the inauguration ceremonies for Virginia Governors Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and Bob McDonnell.
The band has established a strong tradition as ambassadors of the university and community both in the region and abroad. They took their first European tour in 1997, when they performed for the closing ceremonies of the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi Family in Monaco. In December 2000, the Dukes performed at a New Year’s celebration in Athens before an audience of more than 500,000; in December of 2003 they were the featured band for the New Year’s celebration in Dublin, Ireland, and returned for their second tour in 2006. During the 2004 season, the Marching Royal Dukes traveled with the JMU football team to perform at the NCAA Division 1-AA National Championship game in Chattanooga, TN, where the Dukes took home their first national title in school history. In 2010, they performed in the 25th London Silver Anniversary New Year’s Parade.
The MRD Drum Line was featured twice in country artist Keith Urban’s “Love, Pain, & the whole crazy World Tour” in 2007 and 2008. The MRDs have performed twice in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, first at the 75th Anniversary in 2001, and most recently in the 82nd annual parade in 2008. They have been invited to return to the parade in November 2013 for the 87th annual Macy’s Parade.
The MRDs have become well known for their outstanding recordings. In addition to recording for Warner Brothers productions, the band’s own recordings began in 1978. In 1988, they produced their first compact disc, and their 2-CD set compiled in 2001 includes favorite selections from 1988-2001. Recordings can be obtained at the JMU Bookstore, and samples of repertoire can be found on the MRD website.
The band is supported by the Yamaha Corporation, Vick Firth, and Zildjian Cymbals, and has been used in the international advertising campaigns for both firms.
Scott Rikkers is the Assistant Director of Bands at JMU and Director of the Marching Royal Dukes. Chad Reep is the Assistant Director of Athletic Bands and Assistant Director of the Marching Royal Dukes. Steve Bolstad is the Director of Bands at JMU. Rick Deloney is the Percussion Coordinator. Ryan Jonker and Michael Overman are the percussion instructors. Carly Philp and Erin Fairchild are the Colorguard instructors, and Julia Urban is the coach of the dance team, the Dukettes. Connie Driscoll is the Administrative Assistant for the JMU Band Program.