Blogs » Demographics & Dockets » Drum major's death brings grief, puts things into perspective

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Image Most of us recognize this time of year as a time to give thanks for all that we have.

But when tragedies like untimely deaths occur, it makes you realize that we should be giving thanks for the good in our life all the time, not just once a year.

Unfortunately, like many New Year’s resolutions, showing our appreciation for our loved ones and things that we have been blessed with is something most of us start off doing well during the beginning of the year, but our extra efforts tend to fall by the wayside as time progresses.

That is until the next big tragedy occurs, once again putting things into perspective and prompting us to renew our pledge to show and tell our appreciation.

I write this blog today with a heavy heart because this weekend a member of my Marching 100 family passed away unexpectedly.

As a former member of Florida A&M University’s marching band, The Marching 100, I marched alongside fellow clarinet player Robert Champion on the field and played beautiful music with him in the university’s honor band.

Robert came into the band as a freshman during my prophyte (junior year) in the band.

I did not know him very well, and we really never had any long, in-depth conversations.

But during my time in Tallahassee, he would smile quietly at me whenever I entered a room where he was, and we shared the occasional hello.

Nonetheless, he was part of my Marching 100 family, which is a pretty close-knit group of folks, so I grieve for his loss along with his family and band members old and young and near and far.

This past year, Robert achieved his longtime dream of becoming a drum major for the Marching 100, which is a brag-worthy honor.

In case you did not know, the Marching 100 is one of the top marching, show and concert bands in the MEAC Conference, nation and the world.

Making it in the band and becoming a drum major no less is no cakewalk.

Robert died unexpectedly this past weekend after performing at the Florida Classic, which is the last game of the football season and the biggest game of the year next to Homecoming.

At this time, the cause of his death is officially unknown.

His death reminds us once again that tomorrow is promised to no one.

It does not matter how much money you have, how educated or accomplished you are or even how many Facebook friends you have.

Tomorrow could be your last day physically here on Earth, but depending on your religious beliefs, there is another life beyond this one.

We should all remember to give thanks for what we do have instead of what we don't and take comfort in the fact that hopefully our good days outweigh our bad days.

Hopefully, this is something we all, myself included, take to heart and exercise before the next big tragedy occurs.

Because this is my blog, I'd like to take the time out to give thanks to my family and true friends.

I am generally not a very vocal person when it comes to emotions and touchy-feely moments, but I would like to say that I am truly grateful for those who support me during the good and the bad, have my back at all times and accept me flaws and all.

Having you all in my life has been gratifying to no end.

I pray you all can say the same about me.

If you want to know more about Robert or the developing stories surrounding his death, check out this story by the Tallahassee Democrat by clicking this link. I've posted the story below as well.

R.I.P. Robert.

TALLAHASSEE--Robert Champion was determined to be a drum major for Florida A&M's Marching 100, even though he didn't make it on his first try.

Champion, 26, was known for his energy and infectious personality.

As one of six drum majors leading a 375-member band, Champion performed in FAMU's last football game of the season in Saturday's half-time show for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Classic in Orlando.

But the first-year drum major died suddenly after the game.

Monica Johnson, 25, played clarinet alongside Champion as a freshman. She last saw Champion, whom she nicknamed "Roberto," at a band rehearsal Thursday night before the Classic. They joked around with one another like they always did.

"If I had known Thursday was the last time I was going to see him, I would have hugged him a little longer," Johnson said. "I'm still in disbelief."

No foul play is suspected and the incident is still under investigation, said Ginette Rodriquez, spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

She said Champion was vomiting in the parking lot of the Rosen Plaza Hotel on International Drive following the game and complained of not being able to breathe.

Rodriquez said officials are not going to release the cause of death until an autopsy is completed within the next few days.

William Hudson Jr., FAMU's vice president of student affairs, said the university is making plans to honor Champion. Preparations are being made for grief counseling for band members and students through the University Counseling Center.

For now, FAMU is left to mourn the loss of the man band director Julian White said would have been next year's leader when the band took the field.

"We are in shock," White said in a written statement. "He was a very fine drum major who was of excellent character and very trustworthy. I had not told him yet, but he was slated to be the head drum major next year."

Champion, a music major, started his band career with the Marching 100 as a clarinet player and eventually made his way to section leader before becoming a drum major in the spring of 2010.

FAMU President James H. Ammons said Champion's death was a major loss for the university.

"We are deeply saddened by this loss," he said in a statement. "Our hearts and our prayers go out to Mr. Champion's family."

Several of Champion's former band members say he was the kind of person whose love for his band ran deep.

Rosie McCloud said her friend was dedicated beyond words. So much so that on multiple occasions she had to ask him to tone it down.

"He would just say, 'I'm happy to be here,'" she said. "He was never angry. There was never anything bad with him. He would just laugh."

Becoming a drum major meant everything to Champion, his friends said.

Brianna Boddie, another former member of the Marching 100 who played clarinet alongside Champion, said he always talked about becoming a drum major, even as a freshman. It was his dream.

"He was one of the most dedicated people I've known," she said. "He practiced and practiced. He tried out for it several times. He put his heart and soul into the Marching 100."

McCloud, Johnson and other friends agreed they'll miss the inside jokes Champion shared every time they saw him.

Johnson said living without the laughs will be difficult.

What are you thankful for ?