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8 October 2007
Town & Gown:
The Sound of Sensational

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown

“Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners!” As soon as you hear this announcement come over the loud speaker at any football field, you know you are about to watch one of the top college bands in the nation perform a thrilling show.

Coming off of a 50th anniversary season, the Southerners and Marching Ballerinas are back on the field, continuing the momentum forward with this year’s show, “Higher, Faster, Louder!”

“It is a high-energy show which the crowd seems to really like. We have gone with a Latin style music, which is usually always enjoyable for our audiences,” says Director of Bands Ken Bodiford. “We have a really great group of students this year.”

The opening of the 13-minute show, a Spanish favorite, “A Mis Abuelos,” is a fast-paced celebration of sound, including a trumpet quartet that blows the crowd away. The Marching Ballerinas, dressed in fiery red, dazzle the audience with their dance techniques and personality in the second tune, “Sway.”

In memory of Dr. Jerryl Davis, the ballad is an important feature in the Southerners program this year. Dr. Davis, a huge supporter, former arranger of the group and university professor, is honored in true Southerners fashion in “Gabriel’s Oboe.” This tribute is truly a musical masterpiece on the field, and an amazement with an array of colors projected by the JSU Color Guard.

The finale of the halftime fiesta is a version of “El Toro Caliente,” a hot Latin Jazz chart that features the percussion in an over-the-top production. The Southerners never leave a crowd disappointed, and this year’s fiery finish is no exception.

Traveling to different counties and states to perform, this group of 378 members is the largest mobile recruiting tool JSU has the opportunity to house. The students in the group are a representation of this fact, coming from 17 states and 2 countries.

Proof of excelling talent, hard work and musicianship can also be seen in the numerous letters and emails received from other band directors, alumni and fans.

Recently performing part of their show during the halftime of the JSU vs. University of Memphis football game in Tennessee, the Southerners put on an exhilarating show prompting thousands of fans to stand and cheer.

In a letter Bodiford received, one UM fan exclaimed his awe at seeing the Southerners for the first time. “Their look and demeanor was so professional and different from any other college band that I have ever seen. Then, when they took the field, from the first note my eyes were glued to the field,” said the Tiger fan. “I am 62 years old and for the first time in my life I found myself on my feet at the end of halftime, cheering for the opposing school’s band.”

It is no coincidence the Southerners receive comments, letters and emails such as this one after every performance. The staff and students work daily to ensure the precision and quality are heard and seen once the Southerners take the field.

Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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