By Sylvia Dunnavant Hines
The roaring sounds of trombone and drum beating could be heard from miles around as10 high schools from Texas and Louisiana converged on Global Life Field for the 2nd Annual Roland Parrish Battle of the Bands.
This Martin Luther King Weekend, thousands of high school students and Historical Black College and University (HBCUs) came together as bands showcased their skilled performances in pursuit of the $50,000 prize being awarded by the Parrish Charitable Foundation.
“One of the things that I like to do is to create opportunities for the youth,” said Dallas philanthropist and entrepreneur, Roland Parrish, adding that the idea for the Battle of the Bands came to him after he attended a football game between Skyline and Duncanville High Schools. “When I saw the bands play, I wanted to make a contribution to the bands.”
Parrish is known for making a difference by empowering young people in the community. After pulling his team together to develop a fun way to contribute to local high school bands, they came up with the concept of having a battle of the bands.
Even though this was a competition, prior to the event Parrish sent $5,000 cashier checks to all 10 participating schools that were involved in his inaugural Roland Parrish Band Competition.
“What was surprising last year after we were summarizing what happened at the event, we realized that the band directors also offered some of the students’ scholarships,” he said. “The number of scholarships offered was around $400,000. This had a significant impact in our community. This year we have a few more band directors coming from HBCUs. would like to get to the point that we have an opportunity to give out $500,000 in scholarships.”
He asked, “Can you imagine what would happen if we got to a million dollars in scholarships being offered to youth primarily, in Texas?”
Dr. Nikole Roebuck, chair of the department of music and has the distinct honor of being the first female director of bands for Grambling State University, is one of this year’s competition judges.
Roebuck, who was a member of the World-Famed Grambling Band said she was honored to participate
“I look forward to the showmanship. I also look forward to coming back and recruiting from some of these students,” said Dr. Roebuck.
Parrish, who has earned a reputation of giving back to the community, is also using this event to challenge other Black business owners to follow in his footsteps.
“There will be businesses in the community assisting these schools as well. I believe if you do business in the community, you are not just supposed to take money out of the community. You are supposed to put money back in the community,” said Parrish, who currently owns 24 McDonald locations.
This event, sponsored by the Parrish Foundation, also paid special tribute to the Southern sector’s three championship coaches, Desoto Coach Clade Mathis, Duncanville Coach Reginald Samples and South Oak Cliff Coach Jason Todd.
“My motto is creating opportunities and celebrating success, that is why there is also an educational component to the battle of the bands. Recently I was talking to a single mom who was excited about our college fair because it gave her eighth grader an opportunity to start looking at college at an early age,” said Parrish.
There were colleges with information about their schools at the expo.
“The reason that the combination of the battle of the bands and the college fair are critical is because young people are coming because they are interested in the bands, but they also need to be curious about what higher education looks like. The earlier we get them engaged the better they are in the future. They don’t need to wait until they are high school juniors and seniors to have to make a decision about college. The earlier they make a college option it makes it more accessible and affordable as they decide exactly what they want to do,” said Maurice West, Dean of Men/External Affairs at Paul Quinn College.
Parrish looks forward to his vision becoming a dream for youth throughout North Texas as he expands and adds other HBCUs to his platform. It is his goal to make college attainable for any young person that has higher education aspirations.
Sylvia Dunnavant Hines is a News Correspondent for Texas Metro News and the founder of the Celebrating Life Foundation, focusing on Breast Cancer Awareness.