David L. Walters, creator of Southerners’ sound, dies

Imagine the blaring summer of 1961: a little man stands in front of the Jacksonville State University marching band not knowing how much of an impact his legacy would bring to thousands of students for years to come.

Dr. David L. Walters served in the Navy for six years and graduated from the United States Navy School of Music. Walters continued his education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and received his Bachelors in music.

He would later work on his graduate studies in musicology  at Washington University and eventually obtained the Masters of music theory degree from Florida State University.

Before coming to Jacksonville State University, Walters worked as a band director for Fairfield High School in Hamilton, Ohio and also served as the supervisor of music for the New Bern school system in New Bern, N.C..

In 1961, Walters received the position of Director of Bands at Jacksonville State University — a position he held for thirty years until 1991.

Walters was an integral part in the development for the sound of the Marching Southerners. Through Walters’ compositions, the Southerners started refining its one-of-a-kind sound, especially emphasizing the Marching Ballerinas in his dance tune arrangements, such as “Quilting Party.” These developments quickly garnered the Marching Southerners national recognition and attention.

Walters also brought new, innovative ideas to promote leadership and strengthen the band’s traditions.

One of the most important traditions started by Dr. Walters is still instilled in Southerners is family.

He proposed the section leader system, a special system where each musical section of the Marching Southerners would elect two or three people as its leaders.

This system proved quite effective because it allowed everyone to have a say in how they wanted the band to be, and the system is still in use today.

Even after retiring from the position of Director of Bands in 1991, Walters always attended events involving the Southerners, everything from band camp to football games, as the Emeritus Director of Bands. A key highlight to the first day of band camp was always Walters stepping in front of the Marching Southerners and rehearsing “Quilting Party,” followed by a speech with his famous saying: “Be kind to each other. It’s important.” Those simple seven words resonated in the minds of thousands of students over his teaching career and trickled down to their students.

One of Walters’ most notable students is the current Director of Bands at Jacksonville State University, Dr. Kenneth G. Bodiford.

“Dr. Walters always stressed how important it was to put the students first. He always led by example by teaching with a kind humility that made all of his students comfortable and eager to learn,” said Bodiford.

Walters wanted a good band, but more importantly, he aimed to create a family among the members. He knew that uniting each individual personality toward a common goal would prove to be the secret ingredient to success.

Walters left a huge impact on the Marching Southerners, and he will be missed. In honor of Dr. Walters, the Southerners dedicated their last performance of their 2015 show, “Celebration” to him.

This dedication was announced over the intercom before the Southerners performed part of their halftime show in Frisco, Texas at the FCS National Championship.

Walters leaves behind a legacy that is very rare — a legacy that cannot be taught, but can only be truly understood once the student feels the meaning of the words.

Matthew Hill
Special to The Chanticleer

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