Purple Marching Machine
Mr. Iva “Bossman” Williams started the Miles College Band Program in 1949 with thirty-five members. Mr. Williams was a graduate of Alabama A&M College in Normal, Alabama. The musical organization consisted of: a marching band, which performed at football games and parades; the Collegians, which performed at dances and other social events; and the Concert Band, which gave Campus concerts. Mr. Williams served as Band Director at Miles College until his retirement in 1970.
Mr. Joe Terrell assumed the position as band Director from 1970 until 1975, when the College Administration discontinued the football program. Although the football program was later reinstated, the band program remained dormant from 1975 until 1996. Attempts were made to reestablish the band program during that time with a local high school band director serving part-time.
In July of 1996, Mr. Arthur Means, Jr. came to Miles College with thirty seven years of experience as a high school band director. Mr. Means was faced with the challenge of building a quality band for the first football game in August of 1996. The task was monumental, but the goal was achieved.
In 1996, the band performed for President William “Bill” Clinton’s Campaign Rally at Birmingham Southern College. The “Purple Marching Machine” has received raves for its half-time performances, and was selected to perform during half-time at the Inaugural Pioneer Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Band membership has grown to over 200 members. One of the largest and most active organizations on campus, the “Purple Marching Machine” performs for more than 100,000 people annually, and provides the spirit, pride, and enthusiasm that are a valuable part of Miles College. The Band’s high-energy approach to football entertainment, combining exciting drills, dynamic dance routines with the quality playing of sizzling arrangements, creates excitement at every performance.
The “Purple Marching Machine” has performed as an exhibition band for many Marching Band Festivals, and in October 2000, performed in Atlanta, Georgia in the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities Band Extravaganza. The “Purple Marching Machine” performed in the 2002 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
When you think of music, many things can come to mind and in the case of this person contributing their time to the constant positive influence on students, music is their life fulfilled. Plato’s quote states it best the character of this individual; “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, fight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”
Willie Snipes, Jr. is the current band director of the Purple Marching Machine. He has spent the last five years as the Assistant Director of bands at Miles but has a distinguished career that precluded his ascension with the PMM.
The 35-year-old Snipes attended Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, where he became student director in 1999 and was named Most Outstanding Band Member in 2000. He then came to Miles as a student as was very active in the PMM, participating in the marching band, pep band, concert band and jazz band. He also became a student director, assisting with band camps, managing the band's budget, drill writing arranging and conducting music for the band. He is a graduate of Miles while also holding a Master’s degree from National-Louis University.
In 2006, Snipes moved to Tampa, Florida and became Director of Bands at Van Buren Middle School. His band received Superior ratings at the Bandmaster’s Association Assessment for five consecutive years. In 2009, he was awarded the Tom Bishop Award based on the drastic improvement in the band’s performance. In 2011, Snipes returned to Birmingham and took over the Jackson-Olin High School band program. That year, the Mean Green Marching Machine won First Grand Champion at the 14th annual Southeast Region Battle of the Bands and Superior ratings at the BCS Magic City Marching Band Festival.
Mr. Snipes is the son of Willie and Emma Snipes. He has one daughter (Emma Snipes), a sister (Karen Brooks) and three nieces. He is the vice president of the SIAC Band Directors Board, a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma and is also a Prince Hall Affiliated Free and Accepted Mason