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