Football Interview, Part 2

If you’re from Jackson then it’s likely that you’re familiar with Newell Field. It is currently used by Jackson Public Schools and Belhaven University. Most of my memories of the field center around JPS middle school and high school football games. I even shared a few personal memories on that field while I was in high school. I’m sure the stands will be filled the next 3-4 weeks as JPS Rival Schools meet to see who will have bragging rights in the City.

Today’s interviewee spoke of his time playing as a youngster and his time in college. One thing he mentioned was the transition from high school to college. He mentioned the term – redshirt – which is a common phrase for most incoming college freshmen (it may also be used by players that are sophomores/juniors/seniors). A redshirt is often designated for players that need time to adjust to college life on and off the field. It allows them to sit out a year and still have their remaining year(s) to play.

My interview today is with an individual that is a product of JPS. He used his talents to earn a scholarship to a NCAA “D-1” school and a college degree.

When did you first fall in love with football/earliest memory of the game?

Wow. 1st memory is easily going to a (I hate to admit this) JSU game. Family was/is huge JSU supporters. Well not so much now but more on that later. We traveled to all the games. Never missed a fall Saturday. I fell in love watching Wavy Dave (RIP) perform and hearing the 2nd best SWAC band perform. My mama never wanted me to play football which is why I didn’t play organized ball until 7th grade. I feel like that cheated me somewhat but I turned out ok.

What was your funnest time playing football? And what was your least memorable time?

Man, I’ve always had fun playing ball. Through the 8 straight losses my sophomore year and the 0-11 year the very next season. I always just wanted to ball. The blueprint was laid for me by very few guys and I tried to follow it. All in all, college was by far the most fun I had playing ball.

What was the recruiting process like once you realized you were talented enough to play D-1?

Good question. I had no idea. Lol. My earliest memories of recruiting is witnessing my high school coach hoard letters from schools that were coming to watch guys play. This was in the 9th grade. Let’s just say me and some teammates stumbled upon his desk and saw that scouts/coaches were communicating or trying to communicate with the seniors that season. And these guys didn’t know until AFTER the season had ended and we missed the playoffs by 1 game. This “by 1 game” would define my career actually. All that being said, led me to feel as if I (Mom and Dad) were going to have to do our own recruiting. I didn’t realize schools were actually noticing me. I mean I had been starting since my freshman year, played both sides of the ball. I even made an honorable mention all metro team. Back then, the paper only published the top 3 selections. I didn’t even find this out until I attended a scholar-athlete banquet. Smh. So when schools were recruiting me, I was shocked. Thing is the two schools that had the most weight for me (Miss State and jsu) were going through coaching changes. Miss State had been recruiting me and a teammate until Sherrill was fired. Croom said nope, lol. jsu and Judge were recruiting me also. Bell, said and I quote “I don’t want you, I’m going after junior college guys”. This. This here, rocked me to my core. I literally was shaken. The only SWAC school I ever knew. Ever cheered for.

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Is it proper to say “college student playing football?” or “football player in college?”

Depending on the person. Both phrases apply. It’s funny because, people that don’t play sports in college don’t understand the sacrifices we make to just graduate. We do more stuff before 6 am than most do for an entire day. Lol. And then, we don’t have any free time unless it’s after the games on Saturdays.

How did you balance football and college life?

I didn’t really do anything special. It was never hard to manage for me. Football is what I did and I did whatever it took to keep playing. School has always been easy so I never really had a problem.

Describe the NCAA through your point of view

NCAA is trash. Too many rules. Too many ways to make money. Not enough help for athletes. Playing a sport in college, you’re held to higher standards. Almost professional in some places. Yet no one gets paid but the coaches. And ADs. And Presidents. But their not busting knees, dislocating body parts to play. Yes. It’s a choice. However everyone that plays a sport, doesn’t always “have” to play. For example, I could went wherever and just been a student but I wanted to play ball. New stadiums. Student enrollment. All can be attributed to athletics. Not the education majors. Not the IT guys. Not the chemistry majors.

What do you miss about playing football?

The locker room. The road trips. The grind. Having somewhere to be. Learning a new defensive scheme. Studying film. I miss everything about playing. The first practice before the first game. The Oklahoma drill (which I never lost). The competition.

Did you ever think about semi-pro or anything like that?

Yes. I did. Didn’t pursue it further. Was tired of playing ball at that point.

What advice would you give young guys playing the game thinking about reaching the college level?

Run. Run. And run some more. Do a bunch of calisthenics. Take your protein. Run some more. Work on your craft. Try not to get a part-time job. Hard to practice and make money. Gotta sacrifice one. And go where you’re wanted. You’ll have a much better experience. Don’t overthink the process. Forget about depth charts. To this day, I wish I had been redshirted.

Explain why you would’ve liked to redshirt.

Well, by the end of high school… I had only played football for six years. Never had a position coach. A strength coach. Nutrition advice was simply “eat ya vegetables”. My growth as a player was basically all me. Yes, I had coaches who pushed me but only to fit what they wanted. Came to high school not being able to lift 185 pounds. Was always a big kid. Worked my tail off to get stronger. Wanted to be the strongest on the team. I achieved that by my senior year. But even this was misguided. I was young and wanted to play. I started every year I ever played football except 7th grade because of weak *** rules but whatever. Part of not being redshirted was my fault too. I refused to be redshirted. I wanted to prove to everyone that I can play and that’s what I did. Being redshirted would have given me an opportunity to grow my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before. Would have allowed me to develop my footwork, hand speed/strength and possibly allow me to be even stronger than I was. I mean I left college being able to lift 225 lbs – 36 times. And that was without any supplements or guided training. That was all me. Maybe I should add, being redshirted and receiving the proper guidance would have been beneficial for me.  I just feel as if I would have been that much better taking that shirt.

What are your overall thoughts on the “state of football”? (all the rules changes, injuries, etc.)

Football is in a great place. Still exciting to watch. I’ll admit, I haven’t sat in the stands for a college game in years. SWAC ball looks so different. Rule changes are just a reflection of trying to protect the game not the players. Players are meat in a meat market. Always have been and always will be.

Football Interview, Part 2

The Sonic Boom of the South, Interview 3

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I almost named this one “I’ll be late for that…” but five hours later (lol) and after much procrastination the final Jackson State Sonic Boom of the South interview is finally here. I have to say it was cool interviewing the three individuals and I thank them for the time they put in and the insight they’ve given. After touching on some of The Boom’s history in the first interview and then the rivalry with Southern in the second interview I figured I’d get to some of my favorite in game things that The Boom does. There are different facets that The Boom cover during a football game. There’s opening when they march in, the songs that they play during the game, of course there’s the halftime performance, and finally the 5th Quarter.

For the most part I’ll be focusing on when The Boom is at home in Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, MS. I don’t remember the first time that I watched them march in but I know it was after I started driving. My dad used to be my primary ride to JSU games and that meant parking by the Farmer’s Market or somewhere along Woodrow Wilson and walking a long way. So a long walk plus the fact that we were usually running late meant that The Boom would already be sitting in the stands by the time we made it in. Anyway back to the band marching in. As soon as you hear “Get Ready”, the crowd gets hype and the band marches on in. The band normally arrives while both teams are still warming up and they march in behind the visiting teams bench before making their way to “The U” and up “The Ramp”. “The Ramp” is an event in itself and I’ll touch on it later.

After reaching the stands, the band usually warms up before playing the national anthem. I don’t fully understand why the national anthem is played before a sporting event. Strangely I always enjoy when The Boom plays “The Stars and Stripes Forever”. I can’t explain it. More recently the “Zero Quarter” has become more common. This is the time before the football game starts and both bands are entertaining the fans while we wait. This normally takes place before the national anthem.

Next are the songs that The Boom plays during the course of the game. There have been too many songs/fan fares to remember for me to say that a particular one is my favorite. I’ve always enjoyed when they start the game with “We Came to Play”, then sometimes along the way they’ll throw “Big Ballin” into the mix, and as the game moves along you’ll get sections of each band challenging the other and so on. But the biggest in the stands tradition that most JSU fans enjoy is when it’s time for The Boom to play Doug E Fresh’s “The Show”. You really have to be there to fully understand it. Over the years The Boom has added little twists to the song. But in the end it’s still great and it’s usually followed by “JSU rocks the house”. The crowd is usually rocking at this point. Sometimes a fan will blow an air horn or vuvuzela and mimic parts of “The Show” once the band is finished playing.

My next focus is on the halftime show. This breaks down into two parts. There is the field show when the band performs on the field and then there is “The Ramp” which I mentioned earlier. JSU has done some excellent field shows over the years. A couple that come to mind are the Halloween halftime shows which have featured them breaking into the full Michael Jackson dance scene from Thriller and the homecoming shows when the alumni band members would join them on the field. The field shows start off with the “Tiger Run On”. The fast paced movement was created by former band director Harold J. Haughton, Sr during the 1970s.* (I joked with today’s interviewee that amazingly I’ve only seen one band member fall during the “Tiger Run On”. ) The Boom then goes into choreographed movements and songs while the “Prancing J-Settes” and the drum majors known as the “J-5” dance too. In the past, JSU had twirlers that would also do choreographed movements during the field show. Then when it’s time for them to put on a “show”, The Boom breaks into some present or past hit songs and dances. We’ve really been spoiled over the years with their excellent halftime shows.

At this point, the field show would’ve been enough but now it is time for the band to march back into the stands. This is where “The Ramp” comes into play again. Now they could just take it easy and stroll on back to their seats but nope. The J-Settes lead the way heading back up to the stands not just walking but strutting while throwing in some high stepping, leg kicks, and other movements as they make their way through. They’re by the J-5, who also doesn’t take it easy. They high step, slide, glide, and groove their ways back to the seats. The rest of the band then makes their way up “The Ramp”. As usual everything is a “show”. Depending on the section of the band that’s passing through you may get a choreographed dance, some “stank faces”, or some other form of entertainment. There is one other part to “The Ramp” and it’s when the fans start hitting band members with shakers/pom poms. For the most part these swings aren’t too hard but sometimes a fan will go overboard and catch a mean look from a band member or two. A few years ago, the J-5 caught a few fans by surprise and pulled pom poms out of their back pockets and turned the tables on the fans sitting on the first row. Like I said it’s always a show.

The last facet of the game day experience with The Boom is the 5th Quarter. After the football game has ended – and school alma mater songs have been played – both bands dip into their “catalogues” of old school jams, slow songs, or classic hits to see who’s the best. At this current stage of living I’m proudly a member of #washedlife and I don’t stick around for the 5th Quarter. But I’ve seen some good ones. While clean up crews are working, plenty of fans stick around until one of the bands finally gets up and leaves or the stadium director shuts off a few lights. But there’s one more tidbit. After the 5th Quarter is done, JSU walks down to the field and marches out! Yes, marches out to “Get Ready” before loading the buses. The show never ends. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you may get to see the percussion section kick a choreographed musical line formation/dance before finally packing it up for the day/night.

Once again I want to touch on the purpose of me doing these interviews. I just wanted to get some insight on The Boom and share that along with some personal memories. The words I saw used a lot in the interviews were “tradition” and “pride”. I think those two words are the reasons why we the fans get such great performances from The Boom. I didn’t get to interview any of the J-Settes (which I wanted to) but maybe I’ll put something together for them down the road.

*Information on The Tiger Run was found via en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_State_University

The final interview was with Brandon G. from Jackson, MS. His love of music and early memories of JSU’s marching band made his choice easy. While in The Boom he played Alto Sax and during his interview he an interesting tidbit on journeying through the crowd at events.

What is your earliest or first memory of the Sonic Boom Of The South?

Having grown up in Jackson I have a ton of memories of The Boom, but my earliest memory of the Boom was the 1993 Capital City Classic with my dad and for some reason Get Ready was extra loud in Memorial that day the atmosphere was filled with music and black and mild smoke. At halftime the stadium was still packed as people waited to see the Boom destroy that other school’s band (lol). It was a great day and one of my fondest memories for sure.

Were you always interested in music? If so, where did it come from?

I was always a fan of music, I just developed it really, my parents always loved listening to music so maybe from being around them all the time.

Can you take me through what it was like deciding to join The Boom?

It was an easy decision. If I wasn’t going to play in The Boom I wasn’t going to play in any other band, I knew this in 1995 when I heard them play Scream by Michael and Janet Jackson during the halftime show.

Can you give some insight on what your first band camp with The Boom was like?

My first week of band camp was CRAZY, mainly because we had a performance to do that very next week in Charlotte, NC, so being freshman and us not knowing anything AT ALL it was a lot for us to learn in very little time, before the upperclassmen came back. Almost every day our schedule started at 8am and ended at 4am.

What instrument did you play?

Alto Sax

After classes and the fall semester started…what was it like balancing the band, your studies, social life, etc.?

School would always come first for me, so most nights I either stayed up grinding late at night or finished most of my homework or projects during my downtime between classes. Social life during the fall was basically non-existent. I knew a bunch of people in my classes and in the dorms so that was mostly my social life, but during the spring it was all live. This got much easier every year as you matriculate through school, you figure out the band/school/life balance more and more.

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

Yo practices were sometimes long and proved to be pointless sometimes, I mean we learned hundreds of songs only to actually play about 55% of them. Marching thru campus and Cranking up outside the Girls dorm in Alexander was always fun tho especially at 1 am. The other thing that was fun was the amount of jokes and other shenanigans that went on during practice this often helped dealing with those long practices.

That’s a bunch of SONGS to remember. How did you memorize/learn them?

Practice practice practice, we ran thru songs like it was nothing. We ran thru songs slow then at tempo break into sectionals, run thru them some more play them with the lights off in the band hall after you play a song 10 times muscle memory is second nature.

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?

The very first time marching into Memorial with The Boom man I was extra nervous. You know people are looking for you (especially if you’re a hometown kid) you focusing on not messing up flashes marching on the wrong foot, because you would get caught on tape, but after that first time it just gets easier. A typical game day was always cool. Get to the band room at a set time sit in there, make jokes, watch some freshman do skits, then hear a speech from Doc and load the buses where majority of the jokes and skits continued. Get to the stadium line up to march in and from that moment on PARTY!!!! You were there to put on a SHOW especially marching in the stands where people are hitting you with pom-poms in excitement and girls sometimes grabbing your booty. It was really like one big party.

I know you all weren’t allowed to hit anyone coming up the ramp but if you could’ve gotten a free swing…would you?

A free swing hell yeah especially with the people who hit you in the face with a Pom Pom hard as hell.

Not to make light of anyone messing up but I did see someone fall once during the “Tiger Run On”. Lol What was the key for you during the “Tiger Run On”?

Man sooo many ppl fell during Tiger Run On, it’s tough especially for the ones who have to make that quick turn, but the key to it is to make sure you keep count of your steps.

If you have one, what was your favorite game/event that you marched in?

Homecoming 2004 (Freshman year) that was the first game I got out of the Spirit Squad and on to the field show. And we did a 90s old school theme field show.

The last time that you marched with The Boom and what it was like?

SWAC Championship 2007, but Capital City Classic 2007 was the last time in Memorial and it was bittersweet memory, as a senior you get to go down to the field and embrace those of you who lasted ALL 4 YEARS from Freshman Band Camp onto that very moment as the band plays “Happy Feelings” by Frankie Beverly and Maze, it’s a moment of accomplishment, but also the moment you realize the ride is over and its someone else’s turn to bring joy to the fans that fill Memorial every Saturday during the fall.

What’s the most common misunderstanding that gets associated with The Boom?

The Most common misunderstanding is that people think we are Band Heads all the time. Don’t get me wrong some people are, the type that will perform a whole game and then want to watch the video of our performance when we got off the bus, but most of us love band at the moment we are in it, and are normal outside of that. We do have our moments too tho ( I sometimes check out band YouTube clips while I’m bored at work to get hype for the upcoming season)

What is it like now seeing The Boom when you attend events?

Man it is always a joyous occasion to hear The Boom Crank Up and mostly because I know some of my closest friends are right there with me. I also sometimes get jealous cause they finally got the wind suits we never got, but that’s about it. I’m a proud Boom Alum and more so a Proud Alum of Jackson State University.

Any words of encouragement or advice for young musicians?

My advice keep doing what you’re doing, practice and make sure you make the best of your God given talent and if you’re good enough it will help you pay your way through school (like me). If The Boom is for you rep it to the fullest, and make sure you remember why you went to college in the first place, TO GET AN EDUCATION. The Boom has created and destroyed some great people, but as long as you keep your priorities in order you’ll do great in life. Keep this order at ALL TIMES God, Family, and Jackson State University close to your heart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIH9TcGzK5A

The Sonic Boom of the South, Interview 3

The Sonic Boom Of The South, Interview 2

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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.

The Sonic Boom Of The South, Interview 2

The Sonic Boom of the South, Interview 1

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For most young kids growing up in Jackson our first memory of Jackson State University is the marching band affectionately known as “The Sonic Boom of the South” or “The Boom” as we like to call them. We generally run across them for the first time at one of the annual parades held in Jackson (Homecoming Parade, Christmas Parade, Martin Luther King Jr. Parade) or at a Jackson State home football game. There’s no way to describe the way one feels when you first hear them play their adopted theme song “Get Ready”1. Fans rise to their feet and wave “shakers” in unison, little kids dance, clap and mimic movements of the drum majors, and the gentlemen…I’ll just say they have their binoculars in hand. I love JSU football with all of my heart (just ask anyone that’s seen me at a game) but today I’m paying homage to “the summa cum laude of bands”. This is the first of three posts in which I’m going to give a few personal memories, a little history of The Boom and also interviews from former members of the band.

The reason I wanted to do the interviews is because I have great respect and admiration for The Boom. I love music but I’ve never marched in a band or played an instrument a day in my life. But growing up in West Jackson and attending many JSU football games I was well aware of the time and commitment that members of the band put forth. I wanted to hear from a few former members what it was like to march in the band and for them to give some insight on their experiences. Before we get into our first interview I want to share a few more personal memories. My mom loves telling a story about the first time I attended a JSU football game. She said that I couldn’t have been more than 3 months old. So I’m thinking my first game was a JSU-Alcorn game. While my dad was determined to take me to the game, my mom feared my ears would be damaged. Thankfully they weren’t. The highlight of the story is that as my dad held me walking up the bleachers I spit up on his back and shoulder. My mom got a real kick out of that. Of course I don’t remember any of that or what The Boom played that day. My first distinct memory of The Boom did occur at a football game and there were two things that stuck out. I already mentioned “Get Ready” and the band but there was also the greatest mascot ever “Wavy Dave” (Dave Chambers rest in peace)! Wavy Dave did it all! He danced, he flipped, he rode a unicycle, he interacted with the fans, and of course he outdid the opposing mascot every time. The next thing I remembered was “the voice” of the band, Dr. Jimmie James Jr2. during the halftime performance.  Dr. James would put together some interesting quotes with the best of those being his recognition of The Boom as ‘the summa cum laude of bands’. Man those were some good times. I think that’s enough reminiscing for today. After the interview be sure to check out the videos at the end.

Saeed M. was the first interviewee for my look into the Jackson State University Marching Band. While in The Boom, Saeed played saxophone. He was also in Birmingham, AL on December 15, 2007 when JSU defeated Grambling to win the SWAC Championship.

What is your earliest or first memory of the Sonic Boom Of The South?

I had to be about 6 or 7. My family and I were visiting Jackson and my mom (who’s a JSU alum) took my sister and I to a game. I remember getting out of our van and hear this booming(no pun lol). As we got closer to the entrance I saw the Boom warming up getting ready to march into the stadium. By the time we got to our seats they had already made it to the ramp and I watched in amazement until the last person got to their seat. Never thought then I would be one of those people.

Were you always interested in music? If so, where did it come from?

I’d say so. Growing up, every Saturday morning my mom would wake my sister and I up and we’d clean the house. While we were doing that my dad usually had some music playing, usually some Maze, OJay’s, etc. That’s where I believe my love for music came about.

Can you take me through what it was like deciding to join The Boom?

Joining the Boom was the easy part. Deciding what school I wanted to go to was the problem. I knew no matter what school I went to I was going to be in their band. Whether it was UAPB, Texas Southern, MSU(yeah I know) or Jackson State the band was a part of the plan. So I knew once I chose JSU I was going to be in the Boom.

Can you give some insight on what your first band camp with The Boom was like? What instrument did you play?

Man the first band camp was cool and rough. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t expect to be in practice that long. I had never played my saxophone that much in one week EVER. The early mornings for PT were the worst. I’m not a morning person and the waking up sucked. I didn’t stay on campus either so I had to wake up that much earlier just to make sure I was there on time because I wasn’t about that running laps life.

After classes and the fall semester started…what was it like balancing the band, your studies, social life, etc.?

It was rough on me. I didn’t know how to balance them at all. It took me a little while to learn how balance them all because it was a different monster compared to high school.

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 cool. They were long and repetitive most times but the people made it fun. Can’t lie some of the best times of practice was when we were marching back from the Dust Bowl we’d stop on the side of Alexander and blow the roof off for a couple songs.

You mentioned “the people” when you spoke about practice. Can you touch on the camaraderie and friendships formed?

Being around the same people from 6:00 to sometimes 12:00-1:00 in the morning you couldn’t help but build friendships. Most of the guys I had in my wedding were in the Boom or I was introduced to by someone in the Boom. The only 2 that weren’t were my brother and cousin. I think most people that were in the Boom are the same way as far as the friendships go. Like I said earlier, when you are around people for that long you can’t help but to build a friendship with them. Some people I marched with I truly look at them like a brother or sister.

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?

Honestly I don’t remember my first time marching in. After 4 years they all start running together. Game days were the best. Well, outside of the football team being trash my 1st two years and sometimes performing in front of, literally, a couple hundred people they were great. Being able to get the crowd hype during games was great to see.

If you have one, what was your favorite game/event that you marched in?

Easily the 2006 games vs Southern. It was the first time we had a “zero quarter” with them in my tenure. The stadium was packed from corner to corner. The game was great and the battle was just as good.

The last time that you marched with The Boom and what it was like?

2007 SWAC Championship. We won. That was a great day. Nothing else needs to be said really lol we enjoyed that night.

What is it like now seeing The Boom when you attend events?

It’s cool. The difference from watching them when I was in high school to now is crazy. In high school I didn’t understand all the hard work it took to put the product on the field and in the stands. Now that I’m out I appreciate it even more seeing the younger kids keeping up the proud tradition.

Could you sense the “tradition” from the beginning or was it something that developed over time and after leaving the band?

You could sense the tradition from day one! The first piece of music that was passed out at band camp outside of the marches was “Get Ready”. Growing up in Jackson I had played the song before but I had never played it the “Boom” way so to speak lol. That’s when it hit me. The ultimate sense of tradition came Homecoming week, though. That’s the week it seems every “old head” comes out the woodworks. The entire sideline is full of old band members. That’s when you realize this is a family. A huge, crazy family but a family nonetheless.

Any words of encouragement or advice for young musicians?

Practice, practice, practice! Stay focused on your task and be an inspiration for the younger kids that are looking at you. DO THE PROGRAM RIGHT! Most of all, Love Da Boom!

1. http://www.jsums.edu/music/sonic-boom-of-the-south/

2. http://myjsutv.com/?p=2329

The Sonic Boom of the South, Interview 1