Today’s blog post will be my second of three interviews I conducted with former members of the Jackson State University Marching Band. Before I get to the interview I’ll go down memory lane once again. After finishing up my questions with today’s interviewee I knew there was only one topic I could focus on. And it’s the annual event that has now become known as “The Boombox Classic”. This event occurs whenever Jackson State University and Southern University meet in football. Jackson State has in-state rivals Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State. Those two provide excitement in their own ways but if I’m being honest neither compares to the electricity generated when Jackson State and Southern go at it. This rivalry brings out the best and sometimes the worst in both schools both on and off the field. There have been last second heartbreaks in the games (unfortunately the most recent for JSU in the 2013 SWAC Championship game). There has been plenty of trash talk between both fan bases on just about every topic imaginable. And there’s the sounds from both bands. Many that have been able to attend have said that this is one of – if not – the best rivalry game in Black College Football.
I really don’t remember the first JSU-SU game that I went to. I just remember hearing stories in the 90s about how they turned the clock off on us one year in BR (Baton Rouge). I’ve NEVER attended a game in BR so I’ll leave that alone. The things I do remember are both funny and great. There are so many stories that I can tell. Like getting to my Grandma’s house in December of 1999 after a long day of work only to find out that Southern had won the inaugural SWAC Championship Game 31-30 over JSU. That game still holds the record for attendance in the SCG History. In 2001, I left the game early because it was raining and JSU was losing. Most importantly I left because my ride was leaving. We ended up eating at Outback and while we were there a few SU fans walked in. I asked them “what was the final score?” I was so disappointed when I learned that JSU had come back to win 24-21. That was the last game that I left early. Another favorite moment from this rivalry occurred in 2002. This game was played in New Orleans and it aired on BET. JSU won that night 36-14 and I remember then JSU QB, Robert Kent dancing on the Superdome sideline as The Boom played “Do Watcha Wanna”. In 2004 the rivalry returned back to New Orleans and JSU was thumped 45-7…that was a rough one. I ended up being rewarded – for not leaving early – in 2010 when JSU won the greatest regular season game that I ever attended. I was very close to leaving but I stopped at the top of a stairway. It was the wildest 3 minutes of a game that I’ve experienced. The last two meetings between the two schools hasn’t been great for JSU. In 2013, SU won the SCG in Houston after another wild ending and last season they went up to Jackson and had their way both on and off the field.
The funniest personal memory occurred in 2006. The “Bell Error” was over and The Vet was packed when SU came into Jackson. For those that don’t know, when Jaguar Nation comes to town they plan on taking over. So as usual the crowd was overflowing and some SU fans were seated on the home side of the field. Well after the bands had settled down and the game had started, SU was up 14-0 early and they were rocking! I would’ve been fine except there was one SU fan that stood up and not only danced but flipped the bird at JSU fans as the Jukebox played. Now dude wasn’t directing the fingers at anyone in particular but I was pissed no one close to him hadn’t made him sit down. So as the 1st half progressed, JSU ended up tying the game at 14 and this is where it gets funny…especially if you know me. I had to be sitting like 12 rows up from this dude. We were both on the home side 20 but he was sitting on the first row. Before the extra point could hit the back of the net good I was in dude’s face dancing and flipping the bird. He would’ve had every right to steal on me. The people around me tried to stop me but they said by the time they were reaching for me it was too late. I’ve never sprinted down stairs quicker than I did that moment. I walked back up the stairs to cheers and plenty of high fives. The game ended up being a thriller and JSU won 31-28 on a field goal in OT.
The combo of great schools, teams, bands, and fans has made this a great rivalry. When it comes to the bands there is no describing the intensity. It’s one of those things that you just have to experience for yourself. The “5th Quarter” has always been a staple for HBCU marching bands with each one trying to one up the other. But at some point this rivalry made the “Zero Quarter” intense. There was always that genuine rivalry in place but I think a few years ago – when The Boom cranked on SU as they marched in – things went to another level. So much so that at the 2014 game SU was in the stadium extra early ready to return the favor to JSU. It’s always hard to give an edge because both sides bring their best and neither fan base is willing to concede.
Today’s interviewee is Shameka G. Shameka played the trumpet and was a member of Tau Beta Sigma while in the band. Surprisingly to some, she chose Jackson State over her home state school Alabama State. Like me, she has a fondness for the atmosphere that comes with The Boombox Classic.
What is your earliest or first memory of the Sonic Boom Of The South?
My earliest memory of the Boom was my freshman year in high school when I first joined a marching band. We used to watch tapes and listen to clips of different HBCU marching band programs, including The Boom.
Were you always interested in music? If so, where did it come from?
I was never really interested in actually playing a musical instrument until 6th grade when we had to choose an elective and the music teacher did a great job convincing me to join. I’ve always enjoyed listening to music though, ever since I was a little kid.
Can you take me through what it was like deciding to join The Boom?
Deciding to join The Boom was a little crazy for me since I’m from Montgomery, home of the Alabama State Marching Hornets. A lot of my friends and family were surprised that I didn’t choose to go there instead. I started doing research on the university, which helped make up my mind, and practicing for an audition.
Did you/do you still get jokes for not choosing Alabama State?
Not so much from my family especially after they went to a couple of our games and really enjoyed themselves. There are a few of the alumni I know around here that still give me a hard time when football season comes around and I’m always hoping we at least end up winning that particular game and that The Boom is on point.
Can you give some insight on what your first band camp with The Boom was like? What instrument did you play?
One word that comes to mind is “HOT”! We had band camp in high school, but this was nothing like it. There was way more exercising and way more play and practicing. At the end of the day, which was about 12-1 in the morning, we were all exhausted, sore and could barely move. I was nervous too because we had to stand up one by one, introduce ourselves and play a song or scale in front of the directors and upperclassmen. I played trumpet.
After classes and the fall semester started…what was it like balancing the band, your studies, social life, etc.?
The only social life I really had in the fall was the “hot spot” during the day. Other than that, there was no “college night” at Freelons, homecoming activities (unless we were performing), or other after hours campus activities for me during football season. The band members pretty much just hung out with each other which is one reason why a lot of us are so close/cool even years after graduation. As far as studying and homework goes, I did what I could in-between classes, sometimes I stayed up after practice getting work done, too. It was really just a sacrifice we had to make to be in a demanding program like that. On the bright side, there was always the spring semester to catch up socially.
Practice? Yeah we gotta talk about practice…what were they like and WHY were ya’ll keeping the entire campus and West Jackson woke all night? Lol
Practices were tiring but productive and actually fun sometimes. It was a lot of repetition. One reason we kept everyone up at night was because we practiced learning the music first, then we went outside to work on the show. So, the longer it took for us to get it right on the inside, the later it would be before we went outside. The other reason was because if we had to be up all hours of the night, so did everybody else.
The first time you marched into “The Vet” what was that like? And how did you manage to stay calm? And what was the typical game day like for you?
My first time marching into Memorial I thought I was going to lose my lunch. It was just unreal to me, actually being a part of something I watched for years. Everyone made such a big deal about going up “the ramp” and I was just trying to make sure I stayed on the right foot and didn’t get “caught out there”. I think the only time I was calm was when we weren’t playing.
Game day for me was making sure I had my uniform together and trumpet before I left the room. Depending on game time, we either went to the caf or off campus for food then headed to the band hall. I and the other members of Tau Beta Sigma would help band members with anything they needed with their uniform. There was no tailgating, unfortunately.
Lol at getting “caught out there”. Did you ever slip up?
Fortunately, no. I’ve had many close calls in 4 years, but I held it together. Being in the front during field shows makes you concentrate just a little bit more.
You also mentioned, “Tau Beta Sigma”. Can you tell me what that is?
Tau Beta Sigma is a national honorary band sorority dedicated to serving college and band programs. Our main goal is to assist the Director of Bands in developing the leadership and enthusiasm that they require of their band.
If you have one, what was your favorite game/event that you marched in?
The BoomBox classic games between us and Southern were always my favorite to march in. The unofficial rival game. The energy in the stadium whether we’re home or away is always on another level during that game. A close second would be the 2007 SWAC Championship game where we beat Grambling.
BoomBox Classics are always great. As a fan, I’ve had moments of insanity at a few games. Did you ever get too hype during a BoomBox Classic?
As a member of The Boom I was always overly hype for that game. I never did anything out of the way, though. As an alumnus I’ve gone back and forth a few times with opposing alumni band members in the heat of the moment, but we all knew it was just part of the game. Everybody was still cool afterwards.
The last time that you marched with The Boom and what it was like?
My last game with The Boom was the Capital City Classic game in 2009. It was pretty emotional for me because that was the last time I would be in uniform performing for the fans with people I’ve grown to know and become good friends with over the years. It was definitely fun and memorable too though.
What’s the most common misunderstanding that gets associated with The Boom?
I haven’t really heard anything bad get associated with The Boom. I know a lot of times I hear people say that we’re the best band in the SWAC and they’re absolutely right.
What is it like now seeing The Boom when you attend events?
Coming back to games always brings back memories. It’s great to see that they improve year after year since I was a member.
Any words of encouragement or advice for young musicians?
I would just tell them to practice, practice, and practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with anything. Also, to learn time management so you don’t miss out on fun memories while still remembering what your main goal is.