Marching band has hit reality television with “Bama State Style,” a new series from Tremendous! Entertainment airing on Lifetime. This eight-episode series features the Alabama State University Marching Hornets and its dance teams.
“I am excited about how it turned out,” says band director James Oliver. “The good part about this is that everything that you are going to see actually happened. Nothing was scripted at all. Everything is the reality of our band world and what we do.”
A Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Alabama State has a band well-known for its high-energy performances and dance collaborations with artists like Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus. Oliver emailed various production companies looking for more opportunities for his band, and eventually got together with Tremendous!
“I was a little nervous in the beginning—not that we do anything wrong, but as band directors, yeah, we are pretty tight on our students about what needs to happen and how it needs to happen,” Oliver says. “So I was a little afraid that they would be camera shy.”
The show features the entire band but particularly the drum majors and the two dance teams—the more traditional Stingettes and a newer plus-sized group, the Honey Beez. The production staff interviewed all interested students to gauge their personalities and chose the most featured cast members.
“It was nerve-wracking in the beginning because the cameras were in your face all the time,” Oliver says. “It took some convincing because some students or people in general don’t want to be on camera. I explained that it was a great opportunity for us to advertise not only our great band but also our university, and that made sense to them.”
The crew filmed practices, games, meetings and trips as well as the student’s lives outside of band with their family members, in dorms and working on academics.
“They made a whole story, and it was absolutely awesome how they put it all together,” Oliver says. “Band kids have another life too. They have band life, but they have also their academics and personal lives on campus.”
According to information Lifetime provided to ASU, ratings for the premier episode were promising, pushing the network to number one on Friday night original cable programming among women 18-49.
“I want people and fans to know that, hey, these students are working hard not only to make this band greater than what it is, but they also shape their lives around this band,” Oliver says. “We want the world to know that when you see an HBCU school, you are in for a treat because that halftime show is going to be something you’ve never seen before.
“Bama State Style” airs Friday nights at 11PM PT/ET (10PM CT). As of press time, the full episodes were also available on Lifetime.com when you login with certain cable providers. Supporters of the show are asking fans to tweet @lifetimetv with #BamaStateStyle to illustrate the show’s reach and lobby for a second season.
By Elizabeth Geli