The Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama band program ranks among one of the most unique band programs in the United States. Although JSU’s school enrollment is approximately 8500 students, the band program’s enrollment exceeds many universities which have an enrollment of 30,000+ students.
There are multiple aspects of the JSU program that makes it unique, one of the most visible of which is the unique relationship with the JSU Spirit Drum and Bugle Corps. When JSU took on the role of running the Spirit organization (formerly Spirit of Atlanta), they created a symbiotic relationship that serves as both a recruiting tool for the Marching Southerners and kept the then struggling Spirit program active.
Kenneth G. Bodiford, Director of Bands and Clint Gillespie, Assistant Director of Bands are the directors of the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners.
Bodiford explains, “Much of the success of this program is due to the dedication of three main staff members.” Each staff member has a specific duty in which he devotes all of his time and energy. Clint Gillespie is a percussionist; therefore his main areas are the marching and concert percussion ensembles along with conducting the second concert band, the JSU Wind Ensemble. Mark Fifer is the staff arranger and arranges all music for the Marching Southerners, HARDCORPS (the JSU Pep-band) and for JSU Spirit Drum and Bugle Corps. Rodney Bailey, a JSU admissions counselor, is over the entire color guard program, which includes the Marching Southerners color guard and the JSU Center Stage winter guard. Ken Bodiford’s main duty is to carefully coordinate all aspects of the Marching Southerners, the JSU Spirit Drum and Bugle Corps, and conduct the top concert band, the JSU Chamber Winds,
“Although it is an extremely busy job, with a staff such as the one that I have, the work is actually fun. The fact that we are all best friends helps” Bodiford explains.
The JSU band program is very fortunate to have an administration, especially the President of the university, which is extremely supportive of the band organizations. Dr. William Meehan sees the band program as a tremendously effective recruiting tool for the university. The Marching Southerners, which is the most visible of the band ensembles, does not fall under the athletic department, but under academic affairs. This is another area that differs from other universities. Therefore, the Marching Southerners’ shows are designed to appeal not only to the football crowds, but also to the top high school band students in the country.
“Due to the fact that we are not limited to peptunes and the top 40 on the radio for our half time shows, we have been able to recruit some amazing students from all over the country,” said Bodiford. “The students that come to us realize that our marching program is used as a training tool for future band directors. The Marching Southerners have always been a drum and bugle corps style marching band program. This style is the most demanding of marching styles and therefore appeals to the type student that we want to recruit. Many of our recruits come from programs that have participated in Bands of America events and they understand the commitment that it takes to be a part of an excellent program. Due to the strength of the marching program, the concert band programs have flourished and are quickly gaining the respect to rank among some of the countries finest.”
The JSU Spirit Drum & Bugle Corps
The most recent addition to the JSU band program is the “SPIRIT” drum and bugle corps. This partnership has the attention of most music educators around the country.
“It has been a wonderful addition to the total program,” Bodiford explains. “Not only does it bring tremendous stability to ‘SPIRIT’ but it gives JSU one more avenue to recruit students. These two marching programs feed each other. Many students are in both the Marching Southerners and SPIRIT drum and bugle corps. We teach both groups with the same set of standards, expectations, and techniques. Each group continues to benefit both financially and in quality due to addition of the corps to the university.”
Jacksonville State University is the only university in the country that offers every aspect of a complete “band” program. The JSU band package includes: concert bands, chamber music, brass choir, woodwind choir, clarinet choir, trombone choir, mallet ensemble, percussion ensemble, indoor marching drum line, HARDCORPS (pep-band), the Marching Southerners, JSU Center Stage winter guard, Marching Ballerinas (dance line), and JSU “SPIRIT” Drum and Bugle corps.
This November, the JSU Marching Southerners will travel to Indianapolis to perform in exhibition at the Bands of America Grand National Championships.
“My staff and I are extremely busy, but the progress that is being made makes it worth all of the hard work,” explains Bodiford.