For many, Valentine’s Day means elaborate dates and lots of chocolates. For Southerners, it means the reveal of a new marching band production.
At midnight on Feb. 14, hundreds of people anxiously refreshed the Marching Southerners’ webpage, nervously awaiting the show production.
The Marching Southerners will be presenting their 2017 production, a show entitled “Angels Among Us.”
According to the Southerner’s website, “Angels are not confined to the realm of the unknown. They are everywhere, right here among us. In 2017, the Marching Southerners reflect on those people who appear in our lives when we need them the most. While some may no longer be with us, they continue to inspire us, comfort us, and give us hope. These Earth angels lift us up on their wings with every smile, warm memory, and act of kindness. They remind us that miracles happen every day…if we only choose to see them.”
As promised, this production will be an “…[E]motional journey of encouragement and hope.”
The show will include “Fly to Paradise” by Eric Whitacre and “Resplendent Glory” by Rossano Glante as its two works for the band’s opener. “Ready for a Miracle” by Bunny Hull and Art Reynolds will be performed by Jacksonville’s own “earth angles,” the Marching Ballerinas. “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan will be the band’s ballad and it will be dedicated to the angles that are no longer on earth, but still surround “With every smile, warm memory, and act of kindness,” per the show announcement video.
The familiar faces of Dr. John Finley, Dr. David L. Walters and Katie Beth Carter are in the video as well, and “continue to inspire us, comfort us, and give us hope,” even after they’re gone.
Alongside those names are countless others that have built the Southerners to be what that are today.
“We reflect on those people who appear in our lives when we need them most,” is another quote from the video.
“Joyride” by Michael Markowski, and “Hyfrydol Hymn” by Rowland H. Prichard will be featured in the closer of the production.
The band is expected to bring back an old formation accurately described as, “The Wedge.”
The Southerners will begin their preparation during the summer with section rehearsals, and will come together as a whole on Aug. 6, the official start of band camp. Band camp will continue until Aug. 22.
Jacksonville State University is where students are going but not staying over the weekends. This sleepy college has plans to make its campus more exciting.
The plan to increase the desire to be at JSU includes plans to improve housing and to add facilities that the students will benefit from. JSU’s campus may be undergoing several future developments, but the cost of attendance is not expected to change drastically, according to Beehler.
Instead, JSU’s tuition will lower some and balance with fees.
“We’re trying to balance the fees and the tuition, but the goal is to try to keep the tuition as low as possible,” Beehler said.
The students will notice an increase in fees for certain developments, but students already agreed to some such as the fee for the student rec center, according to Beehler.
The fee for the center, announced at the Board of Trustees meeting in October, is set a $150 per semester.
“Students don’t mind paying for things as long as they know what it’s for,” Beehler said in reference to all fees.
Student fees are not the only method funding future developments, according to both Brigham and Beehler. They said money is being collected through fundraising, donations, refunding of bonds, and through Three Ps. Brigham identified Three Ps as Public Private Partnerships.
Just the refunding of bonds is expected to save the university about $5 million, according to Beehler.
“We’re trying to get private money to supplement internal money for all the projects,” Beehler said.
There is going to be a balance between the developments that are made and the costs for them because the happiness and potential success of JSU students are important, according to Beehler.
“We’re being real fiscally responsible,” Beehler said.
One of the major developments the university is working on that is expected to generate excitement is a new student recreational center.
The new student rec center is absolutely necessary to making JSU more than a suitcase college, according to Beehler.
“It’ll make students want to stay here on the weekends,” Beehler said after pointing out that students tend to dislike what the Stephenson gym has to offer.
The students, faculty, and staff of JSU will decide what the new rec center will offer, according to Jim Brigham, director of internal audit/risk management for the university. Surveys were sent to everyone during the last week of September, so students and others could “indicate what their issues are and what their interests are,” he said.
Some students are not interested in the rec center at all. JSU junior Katie Cline thinks JSU should make improvements in other areas.
“I’m not opposed to a rec center—IF we didn’t have more important things that needed done. But right now, our priorities are skewed,” Cline said by email. “You don’t send video games to third world countries where they don’t have access to clean water.”
Other students are excited about the development. They consider the gym in Stephenson to be a turn off, according to Beehler.
After the surveys are reviewed, steps to begin construction can be made. The company consulting with JSU on the project in Brailsford and Dunlavey.
Joe Culloms, one of the company’s employees working on the project said JSU shows potential, and a facility like the center could be transformative for student life.
“There’s really a desire to see JSU offer a more rich campus life experience, and a facility like this would really give students a reason to stay on campus and stay over the weekend,” Culloms said.
Brailsford and Dunlavey are excited about the project, and JSU’s leaders only strengthen that, according to Culloms.
“Without fail, JSU has been responsive and a great partner,” Culloms said.
JSU students are likely to stay at the university over the weekends if they are comfortable with their living area, which is one reason university officials plan to improve housing.
Sparkman Hall is currently the first residence hall that is being looked at for renovations, but it will not be the only dorm to get improvements, according to Beehler.
Sparkman was closed for the 2015-2016 school year because there were plans to renovate the entire inside of the building. However, due to enrollment increasing, the second floor was renovated and currently houses students, according to Beehler. He said the future plan for Sparkman and other residence buildings is to turn the typical dorms into more suite-like apartments.
“Student’s these days don’t like the kind of dorms that I went to when I was an undergraduate,” Beehler said with a laugh. “We’re looking at doing renovations to some of the existing facilities with the idea that down the road a little ways, we’ll build new apartment-condo type student housing.”
Director of Residence Life Rochelle Smith is excited about the upcoming developments. Students have the right to decide what kind of housing they are given which is why constant surveys make their ways into student inboxes, according to Smith.
“We want to put our students first and the needs our students first,” Smith said.
She said doing so should decrease the amount of students going home on the weekends.
Students want housing that will make them comfortable, and they also want facilities that will keep them entertained, according to Beehler.
Another upcoming university project is mainly devoted to an organization people cannot miss. The largest organization on campus, The Marching Southerners, are getting a new practice field. It’s a project that will be put to good use by a deserving organization, according to Beehler.
“When most people think of the university, they think of the Southerners before they think of anything else,” Beehler said smiling. “I like to reward excellence like that.”
The Southerners influenced incoming freshman Madeline Hann’s decision to come to JSU.
“I’ve heard really wonderful things about the academics and the campus as a whole,” Hann said but quickly added, “Also, I really want to be a part of the Southerners’ Color Guard.”
The Marching Southerners have used the parking lot of Pete Mathews Coliseum since the early 1970s, according to Kenneth Bodiford, director of bands. Countless hours of practice have been spent of the asphalt that radiates heat in the first few months of the season. Members have suffered from shin splints and gotten sick from heat exhaustion as a result of the hard blacktop, according to Beehler. Bodiford said three ballerinas are unable to finish the marching season because of knee injuries caused by practicing on the asphalt. He said a new turf field will reduce these occurrences.
Bodiford is excited about the development for more than just the Southerners. He said this sort of development will keep students on campus because it will give them a place to have fun over the weekend.
“It’s really going to benefit not only the Southerners in the fall, but in the spring, it’ll benefit all the rest of the students here who participate in intramural sports,” Bodiford said.
The practice field should also benefit Beehler’s plan for increased enrollment, according to Bodiford.
“I think it’ll be great for recruiting,” Bodiford said in reference to the Southerners and students interested in intramural sports.
The field will be located in the open space between the Park Place II apartments and fraternity houses, according to Bodiford.
President John Beehler of JSU spent his first 15 months at the university observing where the university was and where its potential could take it.
“We’re looking at everything with a fresh eye asking what do we have, what don’t we have, etcetera,” Beehler said.
What Beehler noticed upon his arrival is that interest in the university was declining. However, that changed with the current semester. Enrollment rose 5.6 percent, which is the first increase the university has seen in six years, according to Beehler. He wants more though and has started the process of strategic planning to get there.
“We’ve done a lot in particular focused on the student and focused on making the student want to come here, making the student want to stay here and graduate, and make student life better for the students,” Beehler said.
For over 100 years, JSU served as a welcoming home for students and still does. The university transforms kids into adults. It puts the dreams of students within their reach.
Now JSU is increasing these opportunities through upcoming developments. It is becoming more of what students want while still giving them what they need.
Students are going to JSU, and JSU is going places.
Welcome home, Gamecocks.
The line graph above compares the number of people who utilized dining services for two weekends at Jacksonville State University. One weekend, represented by the dark blue line, is from the JSU Homecoming football game weekend. The other represents a weekend where there was not a football game.
The amount of visits to the different JSU dining facilities represents the number of JSU students who stay at the university over the weekend. The figures were provided by Katie Tyler, the marketing coordinator for dining services at JSU. She said that there is a margin of error of about 200 for Friday and a margin of error of about 100 for Saturday and Sunday because the figures include faculty members and local churches that dine at the university.
As the line graph indicates, there is a significant drop in the number of students who stay on campus. Tyler said the number of students who eat on campus during the week versus the weekend is noticeable.
“We definitely notice that students go home on the weekend,” Tyler said.
Tyler said she thinks that developments to campus could potentially increase the number of students who stay on campus over the weekend.
Kara Mullinax, the head drum major of the Marching Southerners, will be humming a new tune in the months to come: “Here Comes the Bride.”
Last Friday night, after the Southerners gave a special performance of their 2014 show for a crowd of alumni in Burgess-Snow Stadium, her boyfriend, Nic Burgess, stepped out of the snare line, got down on one knee and proposed.
“Nic contacted me about a month ago and told me that he was going to propose to Kara,” said Dr. Ken Bodiford, the Director of Bands at JSU, “I told the crowd, ‘Watch the center of the snare line closely. They are going to do something that has never been done by a Southerners’ drumline’.” And indeed they did. Bodiford says the Southerners see 3-4 proposals a year, but even after 21 years and almost 80 engagements, this one was unique.
With the help of the drumline, Burgess spelled out, “Kara, marry me” during a post-performance cadence with letters on the snare and bass drums. He then appeared on the field with a ring.
“I have never been more shocked in my life,” said Mullinax. “I couldn’t wait to run out there to him. I was still in disbelief at what was happening. It was the most incredible moment. It was so heartfelt, and it fit our relationship perfectly. The drumline is his family and mine, and the moment wouldn’t have been the same without them.”
Burgess and Mullinax’s relationship began three years ago exactly where one would expect: in band. Burgess came to Jacksonville in 2006 and spent eight years on the Southerners drumline, two of those years as a section leader.
When Mullinax joined in 2010, the two were merely acquaintances, but Burgess’s persistence paid off.
“He kept trying to get me to go out on a date with him, but I wasn’t so sure how I felt about that,” said Mullinax. “I finally decided to give him a chance, and the rest is history. We started dating and haven’t looked back.”
Burgess remained with the band as a graduate assistant following his graduation as he pursued a Master’s degree in Emergency Management.
He has since graduated from Georgia Fire Academy and is pursuing a career in fire and emergency services.
Mullinax is in her second semester of nursing school here at JSU and is set to graduate in a year and a half.
After graduation, the couple would like to stay near one of their families, either in the Jacksonville or Newnan, Georgia area. As of now, they do not have any set wedding plans other than that the ceremony will not be until after Mullinax graduates.
“Nic and Kara area both wonderful people,” said Bodiford. “I wish them a very happy life together.”
On Saturday, October 11, the Marching Southerners hosted Bands of America and Music For All’s regional championship.
18 exceptional high school bands from across the Southeast flocked to Burgess-Snow field to compete for the coveted title of Regional Champion.
The day began with the preliminary competition, and after an exhibition from the Marching Southerners, the top ten highest scoring bands that would be moving on to finals were announced.
After one long day, two outstanding performances, and immeasurable pressure, the ten finalist bands lined the field for the awards ceremony and waited.
Harrison High School from Kennesaw, Ga. received first place. Following Harrison was Kennesaw Mountain High School and Fort Mill High School. Awards drew up to tenth place.
Dr. Ken Bodiford has been the Director of Bands at JSU since 1994, and it was he who got the Southerners involved with Bands of America as a recruiting tool back in 1998 when they began performing as an exhibition band at the Atlanta Regional Competition.
Three years ago, BOA asked if JSU would be interested in hosting a regional championship, and Bodiford’s answer was yes.
Joie Byrd, a junior at JSU and one of the current drum majors for the Marching Southerners, has a unique perspective on Saturday’s contest. She was a drum major at Lassiter High School and competed in several BOA competitions. “It was definitely intense,” she admits.
Now, as a member of the host band, she gets to see the competition in a different light. “I definitely think the exhibition portion is a big recruitment tool. It’s cool being on this side of it because when you’re in high school, you think you’re the best, but seeing the [exhibition] bands there, you know there’s still something to strive for.”
And after giving a performance that left thousands of awestruck band students and parents on their feet, the Southerners did just that, and how many future Southerners sat in those stands is a question that everyone is eagerly awaiting the answer to.
It is clear that each of the eighteen bands that participated in Saturday’s competition are incredibly talented and hardworking.
Bands of America is the most prestigious competition circuit for high school bands in the country, and these students have earned their place among the ranks of the greats.
After teaching music for 26 years, Dr. Bodiford has seen and worked with numerous spectacular individuals and groups, and he offers this piece of advice to all of Saturday’s outstanding competitors and to students everywhere with a passion for music, “The thing I would pass on to them is that even though the competition is really important to us, don’t ever let that completely take over your whole being.
“There are some bands that will come in second place by just a tenth of a point, and they’re phenomenal.
“I hate for them to leave thinking that they’re not good because they didn’t win first place. I’d like for them to all realize that to be competing at this level, they’re incredible to start with, and, really, it’s a toss up who’s going to win from day to day.”