“HISTORY IN THE MAKING”: Roaring Lions headed to 26th annual Bandafolies Street Music Festival in Gartempe next week. PHOTO COURTESY OF FLORIDA MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY

MIAMI, GARDENS, Fla. – Florida Memorial University’s band will be marching all the way to France.

The Roaring Lions is set to be the first American college marching band to perform at the 26th annual Bandafolies Street Music Festival, July 13 – 16 in Gartempe, France.

The four-day event features a series of concerts, parades and entertainment by international musicians, bands, singers and dancers along the stretch of The Cafe de la Place, which is about 240 miles from Paris.

A Bandafolies Festival committee will pick up the costs for hotel accommodations for the 76-member marching band during their stay.

But the only Historically Black College or University (HBCU) school in Miami-Dade County needs to raise about $110,000 for air travel expenses and is counting on the community to help send the kids to France, an experience they can cherish for the rest of their lives.

“My philosophy is music can shape the lives of people, change their outlook on life,” said Dr. Richard Beckford, FMU band director since 2000. “And for these kids, they have the passion to achieve a dream. They know in their hearts what they can become.”

Beckford said the Bandafolies committee invited the band to perform in France after watching, on social media, the Roaring Lions perform at parades, concerts and music festivals.

He said the band will perform songs from the genres of Rhythm and Blues, Jazz, Hip-Hop and even some Rock n’ Roll for the rest of the world to hear.

“We’re grateful for being invited there,” he said. “They loved what we’re doing and thought we could bring American culture to France.”

Jean-Pascal Dumet, a Bandafolie Music Festival organizer, said he’s been longing for an American college band to perform at the event.

He said FMU was the festival’s top choice.

“We’ve been dreaming of having an American university band at the Bandafolie’s and it’s finally going to be done for this 26th edition,” said JeanPascal Dumet, a Bandafolie Music Festival organizer.

“The performance will also garner great attention and honor for the state of Florida, Florida Memorial University and HBCUs across the country.”

FMU President Dr. Jaffus Hardrick credits Beckford for the school making history as the first American college to perform at Bandafolie.

“To have the Roar reach the top so quickly is truly remarkable and is a testament of Dr. Beckford’s leadership,” said Hardrick. “I am so proud of everything these musicians have achieved and I know they will represent us well with an outstanding performance in France.”

Beckford, who was previously the band director for his alma mater Carol City High School and Ely High in Pompano Beach, said his band has performed at HBCU national music festivals and during President Joe Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ visits to South Florida.

But the performance in France is the band’s top achievement.

“The band’s tagline is ‘History in the Making’ and they certainly are living up to those words,” he said.

For some band members, it’s the first time they will travel outside the country. But the experiences that await them will have a lasting impression.

“I’m very excited because I have never been out of the country before,” said sophomore Esther Cadet, a flaggett. “But it’s a great opportunity to see different ways music is played. To see other bands’ styles is exciting.”

Senior Rashaud Marcelin, who plays the tuba, said performing at the festival can expose him to a different array of music that can impact his music career. Besides forming his own band someday, Marcelin is planning to be a music teacher and band director at local schools.

“Experience and knowledge are something I hope to gain from this trip,” said Marcelin. “I want to teach music in schools because I love to give back to the community, and the ability to give back to students who are less fortunate is my passion.”

Junior Hannah Prieto, who plays the clarinet, said her Florida high school band once played at Carnegie Hall in New York.

But her trip to France is more fascinating, she said, because it is famous for its monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral, and European classical music.

“It’s a once and a lifetime experience because a lot of us have never been to France,” she said. “We get to connect with a lot of people who have music in common. We will have memories for the rest of our lives.”

To donate or become a sponsor visit FMUTheROARBand.