In early September, days after the hazing workshop, five "pledges" line up according to height before members of the Clones, the clarinet subgroup. Inside the off-campus home of two Clones, the pledges begin their initiation into the group. They are exercised past the point of exhaustion and made to perform music to the strict satisfaction of upperclassmen. They are punched, slapped, paddled and belittled with profane insults. At least one leaves the hazing with bruises on her buttocks.
One pledge, Shantivia Conley, has had enough. When she doesn't return for the second hazing, the others are "prepped" — slapped hard on the back with two hands — for allowing Conley to quit. One is ordered to prep Conley for not showing up for further hazing.
In subsequent hazings, the four remaining pledges are extorted for money by the Clones, beaten, demeaned and pushed to exhaustion. It's the pain and indignity some FAMU students are willing to endure to win acceptance into the most famous college marching band in the country.
The legend of the Marching 100 draws students from throughout Florida and across the nation to the historically black university in Tallahassee: kids from Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, but also Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago.
This is the band that starred in television commercials, marched in presidential inaugurations, performed at Super Bowl halftimes, played with Kanye West at the Grammy Awards and was featured on "60 Minutes."
Everywhere band members go, from campus to the courthouse to the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Tallahassee, they see pictures of the famous FAMU bands of the past. For some, this is the realization of the dream they had in high school. For others, a band scholarship to FAMU is their only way to attend college. About half the band is on scholarship or receiving financial aid.
Many are music majors, but some are not. They plan to pursue careers in business, pharmacy, law and education, but for now they are willing to sacrifice for the glory of belonging to the "Incomparable Marching 100, World's Best."
They are young men and women, many away from home for the first time, with the need for acceptance and belonging. The most vulnerable are willing to do just about anything — endure pain, risk their scholarships — to make it inside the secret and select subgroups of the Clones, Thunder, Gestapo, Red Dawgs, Screaming Demons, B Tone Express, Whales and The Z.
But this is not the kind of hazing students endured in some high-school bands — silly stuff such as forcing a boy to wear a bra on the outside of his shirt or making a girl wear a "kick me" sign to class.
As in the military, the youngest recruits endure taunts on the practice field meant to break their spirit or force them to work harder. Go kill yourself, freshman. Why are you here? Women are insulted with sexist slurs. Male freshmen are made to feel emasculated, ignored as if they don't exist, when they try to talk to upperclassmen.
Freshmen are forced to remain together at all times. Eat together. Arrive for practice together. Walk your freshman sister to class. When they travel to football games and other events, they're bullied and made to turn over the money they receive to pay for their meals.
In text messages and phone calls, upperclassmen order them to provide everything from candy and sports drinks to liquor and a barbecue grill.
Sometimes, when a student doesn't know his music or plays a wrong note, he's hit with the bell of a horn or punched in the arm.
The long hours of practice in the hot Florida sun — from 3:30 p.m. to as late as 7 p.m. Monday through Friday — make it tough. The hard work, paired with the constant degradation, makes some feel like quitting virtually every day.
"Everything made you want to quit," said a freshman who stuck it out.
Hazing predators and their willful victims were there when Bernie Hendricks was in the band from 1991-97. They were probably there, too, when his father was in the band from 1958 to 1963. Hendricks' father was director of student activities from 1986 until his death in 1992, and one of his duties was to suspend and expel band members caught hazing.
When Bernie joined the band as a drummer, his father warned him against hazing: "If you do something, I'll have to kick you out of school, just like I've had to kick other kids out of school."
But the line is sometimes blurry between what constitutes hazing and what is part of the militarylike drills, discipline and precision that go into becoming the best marching band. A section leader may yell at a trombone player for missing a note, or an upperclassman may belittle a freshman for failing to master a complicated drill step. Are those acts of hazing or expressions of what it takes to make it in the Marching 100?
"It's not for everybody," said Hendricks, 38, the band director at Ocoee High School. "It's a big commitment, and some can't handle it so they quit and use that [hazing] as an excuse."
That gradation of what constitutes hazing leaves it up to every band member to decide what he or she is willing to do, and where to draw the line.