JSU Strong: Tornado Doesn’t Silence Marching Southerners’ Signature Sound


Since the spring semester was a busy one for Director of Bands Dr. Ken Bodiford and the Marching Southerners, it’s no wonder they were looking forward to spring break. There was no way to know what would happen on March 19, so Dr. Bodiford set sail on a Caribbean Cruise two days earlier.

Dr. Bodiford didn’t pay the extra cost for Internet and cell service. He spent Monday night unaware of what happened. But when getting ready for a land excursion the next morning, he got news of the EF3 tornado.

“As I was getting dressed that morning, I had the TV in my cabin on MSNBC listening to the international news,” he said. “I was brushing my teeth just before walking out of my cabin and I heard the newscaster say, ‘Destructive tornados rip through northeast Alabama and hit Jacksonville State University.’ I cannot explain the panic that I felt...I ran over to the TV, and then I saw pictures of our campus. My heart sank.  I felt as if I could not get to the transport boat and tender to land quick enough.”

Once able to get a cell signal, Dr. Bodiford reached his secretary, Sandy Duval, after several tries.

“The sun had only been up a couple of hours so she along with everyone else was still trying to wrap their head around all of the damage,” he said. “She had driven to my house and said that everything looked okay to her, so that was a relief.”

Dr. Bodiford then learned that his assistant directors, Clint Gillespie and Jeremy Stovall, were fine, as were the other music faculty members and the Marching Southerners’ uniforms. But Greg Seitz’s house had been hit. So had Mason Hall.

“They Gillespie and Stovall were eventually able to get into the building and saw that the band room had large openings in the roof /ceiling as well as in Clint's office,” he said. “However, at that time they could not get into the room next door, the Performance Center, where many instruments are stored. 

“Among the instruments stored in that room are the prize jewels of the Marching Southerners, our beloved 20Js (marching tubas),” Dr. Bodiford said. These instruments are antiques and cannot be replaced. The production of the Conn 20J Tuba stopped many years ago. These special large bore instruments are a huge factor in the unique dark sound (tone quality) that The Marching Southerners are known for throughout the marching band community.

“Without the 20Js, the Southerners characteristic sound would forever be changed,” Dr. Bodiford said. “Needless to say, this was a huge concern for all of us that are involved with the band. For several hours my stomach was in knots. It is horrible being a couple of thousand miles from home when tragedy strikes, you feel so helpless.”

Fortunately, Dr. Bodiford received a picture from Stovall of the 20Js, damp, but in their place and unscathed.

“When I saw the picture that he posted of those beautiful instruments, and I heard that there had been no loss of life, I knew that everything would be okay,” he said.