The phone call had almost no details. It was someone Lomario Marchman knew from Florida A&M University.
“We’ve got this big gig coming up and I can’t tell you the artist,” he told Marchman. “But I guarantee you, it’ll be life-changing.”
So Marchman and 11 other musicians packed their bags for Los Angeles. When they learned the dates, they figured out they were performing at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
“We didn’t know what artist it would be until we received our credentials and signed our contract,” said Marchman, 26.
That year, Beyoncé took over Coachella. She was the first African-American woman to headline the festival, and she used the platform to highlight black culture and pay tribute to historically black colleges and universities. Students from North Carolina A&T University, Grambling University, Tennessee State University, FAMU and other schools performed with Beyoncé at the show, which also highlighted black fraternal groups.
The turn at Coachella was so influential that fans, social media influencers, blogs — practically the world — renamed the festival “Beychella.” In April, she released Homecoming on Netflix, chronicling the eight-month preparation for the set.
In the film, Beyoncé said she always wanted to attend an historically black college or university.
“My college was Destiny’s Child,” she said. “My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher. Instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”
Marchman, who grew up in West Tampa and played in Jefferson High School’s band, never expected to be there.
“Are you kidding me?” he thought. “Is this really happening? It was like a dream come true, not just for myself but for my family. Growing up, my sister was a singer and she loves Beyoncé. That’s all I used to hear.”
In school, Marchman started in the drumline playing the cymbals, mastered them, then quickly moved up to the bass drums, then the French horn. As he added more instruments, he developed a strong ear for music and began to sing and play in other school ensembles.
“He just started excelling and really working hard,” said David Triplett-Rosa, his former band director at Jefferson. “I mean, he spent a lot of time really working hard and preparing for auditions so that he could get recognized by college professors.”
In 2011, Marchman started taking classes at Tallahassee Community College. Though he wasn’t a student at FAMU, he played in the school’s renowned marching band, the Marching 100. At that time, the band allowed students from other schools to march with the band.
That arrangement only lasted one semester for Marchman. The school’s band was suspended for a year due to a deadly hazing event that destroyed the elite band’s reputation.
He stayed in Tallahassee for a while, then transferred to the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2014 to pursue fashion.
But he left a lasting impression on FAMU alum Don P. Roberts, the founder of traveling show Drumline Live and band director at Coachella. Beyoncé’s team recruited Roberts at the 2018 Honda Battle of the Bands in Atlanta.
Roberts and Marchman had been in contact over the years for potential gigs. Roberts helped Marchman land an appearance in the movie Drumline: A New Beat, the 2014 sequel to 2002’s Drumline. Then, the Beyoncé call.
Marchman played mellophone and choreographed moves for the band. During rehearsals, he was shocked by how personable Beyoncé was. She brought her family around, he said, even her young twins.
“She always smiled,” he said. “We always prayed before practice and rehearsals and she always told us that we were doing a good job. And she was always so supportive and so uplifting in the process, which really made us feel comfortable, especially because I’m expecting Beyoncé to be a drill sergeant. We all know that she is a perfectionist.”
During the first performance, Marchman’s body went numb.
“I didn’t even know if I was playing anything. I didn’t know if my lips were vibrating through the instrument. All I know is it was so loud, there was so many people, and there was so much energy that I was shaking on stage literally and it took me a while to get into it.”
He had agreed to be filmed during rehearsals but was shocked to learn later that a documentary was in the works and that he was in it a few times. His friends did the same double takes.
“It took me a second to really absorb all of it,” said Triplett-Rosa, who now teaches at Barrington Middle School. “It was like wait, is that Lomario? ... It was just a proud moment as a teacher and I use his story as a role model for the students now all the time.”
Marchman’s Instagram count has increased and he’s pursuing a career as an artist in Los Angeles while he teaches at a swim school.
“Performing for Beyoncé will do nothing for me but take me to higher places because now I can put that on a resume as an artist.”
And he will always remember one moment with the elusive performer, someone not many people get to see up close. During a rehearsal, they locked eyes.
“Good night,” she told him.
Contact Monique Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mo_UNIQUE_.