“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 has become one of the best known and largest college marching bands in the country.
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, 2010, and 2014 they performed at the inauguration ceremonies for Virginia Governors Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Bob McDonnell, and Terry McAuliffe.
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, and will be featured in the Rome New Year's Parade during their 2014-15 tour of Italy.
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 three times in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, first at the 75th Anniversary in 2001, again most in the 82nd annual parade in 2008, and most recently they were the lead band - with 485 members - for the 87th annual Macy’s Parade in 2013.
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, and J.R. Snow is the Assistant Director of the Marching Royal Dukes. Steve Bolstad is the Director of Bands at JMU. Steve Cash is the drumline instructor/percussion coordinator, and Michael Overman is the Front Ensemble instructor. Carly Philp, Erin Fairchild, and Laura Milford 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.