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01 November 2006

Southerners 50th Anniversary Performance Set for Veterans Day, Nov. 11

The Southerners' fiftieth anniversary reunion and performance on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, will be an historic occasion: five decades of band directors, Southerners, Ballerinas, the Color Guard members and others will gather to celebrate their participation in one of America's best-known marching bands.

Southerners alumni are expected to fill Paul Snow Stadium with the sound of a spectacular halftime program (JSU vs. Samford, beginning at 11 a.m.). At the same time, the gathering will be the perfect occasion to pay tribute to our nation's veterans and active duty military.

From 1956 to 1960, Dr. John Finley pioneered a revolution in the sound and marching style of marching bands by giving the Southerners a unique, symphonic style. Dr. David L. Walters became director in 1961 and continued the tradition.

"The story begins with the bands of the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, as typified by such bands as Sousa, Prior, Moses and Conway," said Dr. Finley. " However, in the middle of the twentieth century, I became aware of the fact that this style of playing was inadequate in expressing what I wanted to hear. The sound seemed to be 'squelched and homogenized.'"

According to Finley, the problem was that the band needed a more colorful, richer and bigger sound -- and a change in marching style.

"My answer was to open up the field formation into a company front and to begin using precision drill routines," Finley said.

Finley did not use a squad of majorettes. In its place, he originated a new group, The Marching Ballerinas, whose performance is influenced by the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"I considered a dance group to be more effective than a group of baton twirlers," he said. "In my opinion, dancers have more show potential than twirlers. The Ballerinas had a featured spot on every field show."

Dr. David L. Walters carried on the tradition from 1961 to 1990.

"Dr. Finley was very helpful in getting me started as director of bands. My concept of tone from a brass instrument was very much the same as that of John, so I really continued in the direction begun by his vision.

"The basic sonority of the Southerners came from the low brass -- tubas, trombones and euphoniums. John was an excellent applied teacher and turned out some really good players.

Marching band music was not very plentiful in those early days, and we had little selection. I had come up playing in the 1930s and, of course, remembered the big bands of that era. Each band had its own book or library, and it made that particular band recognized by the tunes or arrangements they played. I thought that we needed something like that for the Southerners, so I wrote most of the music for the field with emphasis on the low brass and percussion."

Dr. Walters said, "We considered the band one of the important recruiting tools for the university."

The following is JSU's roster of band directors, from inception to present, including the very earliest years before the band was called the Southerners:

Dr. John Eugene Duncan 1946-1955
Dr. John T. Finley 1956-1960
Dr. David L. Walters 1961-1990
Dr. Scott McBride 1991-1993
Ken Bodiford 1994-Present

For more information about the fiftieth anniversary celebration, please call Sandy Lynch in the Band Office at 782-5562.

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