The Marching Royal Dukes are James Madison University's official marching band. Formed in 1972 (the same year as the football team), the "MRD's" perform at pre-game, halftime and post-game at all home football games, and travel with the team occasionally to perform at away and post-season games. In 1994, the MRD's were the recipients of the Sudler Trophy, the highest honor available for a college marching band.
The MRD's are nicknamed "Virginia's Finest", they have performed at venues such as the inaugurations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the NFC title game between Washington and Dallas in 1983, Bands of America Grand National Championships in 1988 and 1991. The band has made four appearances in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, first in 2001, again in 2008 and 2013, and most recently in 2018. In the past decade, the band has taken trips to Europe during the school's winter break, featuring Athens, Dublin, Monocco, London, Paris, and Rome. In the most recent trip to Europe, the MRD's participated in the 2015 Italian New Year's Day Parade in the Vatican.
The Marching Royal Dukes rehearse in Bridgeforth Stadium, and memorize two shows every year. Each show consisting of arrangements of at least three songs. Their show music consistently spans across a variety of genres, from funk and rock to musicals and movie themes. The second piece of each show always features the Dukettes, the university's four-time NDA champion dance team. The MRD's perform the jazzy JMU Fight Song, along with other iconic MRD tunes during their pregame and post-game performances, in addition to performing countless popular songs during their "stand band" performance throughout all football games.
In addition to performances at JMU's football games, the Marching Royal Dukes record a new CD yearly with selected songs from their show music. During the winter, the MRD's also participate in the annual Harrisonburg Holiday Parade.
The marching band is offered as a two-credit applied music class at JMU. As a result, the Marching Royal Dukes continuously retain one of the largest college marching band rosters, sizing up at 493 members in their 2021 season. The MRD's are open to all majors, and to students from local community colleges, and attract membership from students of almost every field of study.
Throughout the year, the Marching Royal Dukes provide support and training to local high school band programs. Every summer, the MRD's host their annual band camp, JMU Summer Band Camps, which welcomes students from across the Mid-Atlantic to attend and train with MRD staff. During fall, the Marching Royal Dukes perform in exhibition at various Virginia high school band competitions. In October, the MRD's host Parade of Champions, a large high school marching band competition in which attracts over 50 bands from across Virginia and other nearby states come to perform and receive scores.
History with the Macy's Parade
For their second appearance in the 2008 Parade, they performed the jazzy rendition of "Sing, Sing, Sing".
The Dukes returned for a third time as the leading band in the 2013 Parade. They would perform the sweet sound of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.
For the band's most recent appearance in the 2018 Parade, they performed a mash-up of George Benson’s “On Broadway” and the George Gershwin classic, "I Got Rhythm.”