Marching Southerners Win Top Honor in College Bands


by Buffy Lockette

Jacksonville State University has long believed its famed marching band, The Marching Southerners, to be one of the best college bands in the country. Now it has the hardware to back it up. 

The John Phillip Sousa Foundation notified university leadership on Tuesday that the Marching Southerners have been named the 2022 recipient of the prestigious Sudler Trophy. Given to one collegiate marching band every two years, the award is the equivalent of winning the Heisman Trophy. JSU is the smallest university ever to win the trophy since the awards program was created 40 years ago. 

"The announcement that we will receive the coveted 2022 Sudler Trophy completely humbles me," said Dr. Kenneth G. Bodiford, JSU director of bands. "In addition to the current members and staff, this award is a culmination of all the hard work and dedication of past members and directors dating back to the founding of The Southerners and Marching Ballerinas in 1956. It is truly an honor to share this accomplishment with our entire band and university family." 

Established in 1982, the Sudler Trophy recognizes collegiate marching bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life. It is awarded biannually to a college or university marching band that has demonstrated the highest musical standards, the most innovative marching routines and ideas, and has made important contributions to the advancement of college marching band performance standards.

Bob Buckner, retired band director at Western Carolina University - which now becomes the second smallest university ever to have received the trophy - said the honor is long overdue. 

"Since first witnessing a performance by the JSU Marching Southerners in the late 1970s, I have been a fan,"  Buckner said. "Their strong tradition, musicianship and overwhelming sound have brought thrills to countless students and audiences throughout the Southeast. Being awarded the Sudler Trophy is a tremendous tribute for any collegiate band and is an honor that places them among a highly distinguished list of previous winners of the award. Nothing is more American than a great marching band and no bands that I know are more accomplished or deserving than The Marching Southerners."

Members of the John Philip Sousa Foundation's Board of Directors will present the trophy to the band at halftime during a Gamecock football game next fall. Learn more about the Marching Southerners at