Troy University’s Sound of the South marching band is rated as one of the top college bands in the southeastern region, but current members said that without the sacrifice, dedication and leadership from everyone involved, the band’s success is not possible.
Jeremy Burgess, a sophomore history education major from Enterprise, said that he has always had a passion for the musical arts. “I thoroughly enjoyed the band program at my high school,” he said. “So when I decided to come to Troy, I had always heard good things about the Sound of the South, so it seemed natural to join. Plus, the scholarship doesn’t hurt.”
The scholarship amounts for each individual person range based on talent, with the minimum award equaling $325, which, if you are an instrumentalist, you automatically qualify for. However, with the acceptance of this money, all scholarship recipients are expected to perform at their best, even in smoldering heat during band camp.
“Band camp is hell,” said Cinnamon Wilson, a senior nursing major from Troy and a fourth year trumpeter. “There is no nicer way to put it, but it is a vital part in making the SOTS the best band this side of the Maxon-Dixon line.”
Band camp usually ranges from the Tuesday or the Wednesday of the week before the start of the fall semester until that Sunday, with rehearsals ranging from about 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, on average, with meal breaks scattered throughout.
Burgess, a second-year band member, said that band camp this year was “hot!” Yet, he understands that this type of hard work is necessary.
“[It’s] some of the most fun you never want to have,” Burgess said. “We need it though because it establishes the basis for marching each year and allows a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time.”
Though Burgess said that band camp is the most difficult part, he said, “If you get through camp, nothing else should bother you the rest of the season.”
Great success, however, requires exceptional leadership, which, Wilson said is abundant throughout the program. “The leadership this year is great,” she said. “Dr. Walker did a great job choosing section leaders and band officers, and he does an exceptional job leading the band.”
“The office staff, graduate assistants and Amanda Taylor are essential,” said Mark Walker, director of bands. Walker said that Taylor serves as an administrative assistant, while the graduate students can serve, in full capacity, as assistant band directors. “The band could get along without me, but it couldn’t without them.” he said.
As Burgess puts it, while each member is expected to lead by example, there are leadership organizations that aid in the band’s continued success.
“My leadership is somewhat behind the scenes,” Burgess said. “But my fraternity, Kappa Kappa Psi, strives to promote leadership and excellence in the band program.”
Kappa Kappa Psi is a service organization that works in the shadows. With its sister organization, Tau Beta Sigma, its purpose is to make sure that each band member is properly taken care of and that each performance runs smoothly.
Amber Armstrong, a senior psychology major from Phenix City and a third year clarinetist, said that Tau Beta Sigma encourages the advancement of women in the band profession and, as a whole, provides service to the band.
“I joined Tau Beta Sigma because I liked that they did service,” Armstrong said. She said she wanted to be more involved in the band program than she was in her high school program. Making bonds with her sisters has been her favorite part.
“The service organizations are great,” Walker said. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them. They are terrific organizations.” Sound of the South band president and Kappa Kappa Psi member, Allen Parrish, a senior music education major from Panama City, Florida and tuba player, said the service organizations do anything the band needs.
“We do service projects within the band program and provide enthusiasm,” when needed, he said. The implementation of great leadership translates into successful performances and public appearances, which rings true, from the apparent gratitude of the SOTS’s fans. “My favorite moments absolutely have to be the crowd’s reaction to the fanfare,” Wilson said.
She said that many times after a performance, people would come up to her and congratulate her on a great performance and express to her how much they love the band. “In general, being in the SOTS makes me feel like a super star,” she said.
Each Thursday night, the SOTS and its staff have a dress rehearsal that is all but ordinary. Wilson said that Thursday theme nights are when each section dresses up in some type of obnoxious get-up.
“So you’ll come to band and be surrounded by drag queens, frat boys, or even ninja turtles,” Burgess said.
Allie Bowen, a junior sports management major from McDonough, Georgia and a third year horn player said that she loves Thursday theme night because while theme night can get a little crazy, “it shows unity within each section and as a band.”
Just as theme night serves as tradition, home games bring even more. Like many other college bands across the country, the Sound of the South members start the game day out bright and early, fine-tuning the pre-game performance, the stand tunes, and the halftime show.
“I personally like Saturday morning practices,” Bowen said. “It calms me down because I get so nervous on game day.”
The morning rehearsal starts off with a good stretch, in a block-style formation. Following stretches, the remaining interval between rehearsal and the game is filled with crowd-pleasing music and pep rallies.
Jennifer Burgess, a senior human services major from Enterprise, has been a longtime fan of the SOTS and the pre-game performance.
“The fact that the sound of the Sound of the South is big, is the best,” Jennifer Burgess said. “The Sound of the South is awesome, and I love when the band runs down the steps during pre-game. It gives a really great affect.”
The SOTS pre-game is a Trojan tradition that begins with band members circling the “bowl”, which is the general admissions section behind the goal post. This is followed by the horde of band members furiously running down the steps to the field.
This being her first pre-game performance, Angela King, a freshman music major from Panama City Beach, Florida, and a first-year trumpeter, said she is excited but is expecting to fall down the steps while running down alongside her fellow band member.
Bowen has a similar perspective, saying that she has no desire to be in the bowl, but she loves the effect that it gives to the pre-game performance.
The game starts, the halftime show is performed and the game ends. Win or lose, the day continues on for the Sound of the South members, as the band heads to the field for a final performance known as the post-game show. The band forms into arcs and plays multiple tunes and, sometimes, multiple shows.
To end off the day, the band sings Troy University’s alma mater and performs part of the fanfare, both home game traditions. Each rehearsal or performance ends with a call to attention, a furious chanting of “T-R-O-Y” and a single, loud burst of, “Break”
“I am so proud to be apart of something so wonderful and loved,” Wilson said.
“Everyone is a big family, and we all seem to love each other,” King said. “It’s just awesome.”
“It’s a lot of hard work and time commitment, but it has been a very positive experience,” Burgess said.
Students can experience the Sound of the South spirit and traditions this Saturday, as the band opens up the fall season with ‘Americana,’ a halftime show tribute to America.