As if 90-degree weather isn't enough, the halftime performance at University of Southern Mississippi football games by The Pride of Mississippi band heats up the action even more.
Southern Miss football fans witness the ultimate team effort with a performance of more than 50 pages of drill and the synchronized marching of hundreds of Southern Miss students who make up the university’s renowned band, which is ready for the 2008 football season.
The Pride is taking fans back during the Golden Eagles vs. Louisiana Lafayette game on Saturday with a "Blast from the Past.” A March to Victory will begin in The District at 5:30 p.m. with a high-velocity pre-game display of Southern Miss spirit.
"We think about the audience when choosing our music and try to give them a variety of styles," said Mohamad Schuman, associate director of bands at Southern Miss. "This year, we will incorporate general effect movements around the marching to songs like 'Takin' It to the Streets' by the Doobie Brothers, Aretha Franklin's 'Think' and "Old Time Rock and Roll' by Bob Seger."
Drum major Chris Lyman is in his third year of directing The Pride at Southern Miss football games. He said while each season reveals a different look and sound, preparing for it takes the same discipline. The Pride began learning music for their first football game this month.
A usual week may include running the show 30 or more times to ensure everyone remembers their routine. Getting 13 flutists, 24 clarinet players, 19 saxophonists, 19 trombonists, 23 trumpet players, 11 horn players, 5 baritone players, 11 tuba players, 22 percussionists, 25 color guard members, 40 Dixie Darlings, three drum majors and two baton twirlers to all think on the same page is no easy task.
"Sometimes, it is a little chaotic," he admits. "The challenge is at the beginning, getting everyone to think on the same page. Everybody is in charge of their own individual routines and spots. It all comes together to make one large show with various formations."
Two Southern Miss alums will also take the field from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette band, the Pride of Acadiana. Band directors Dr. Brian Taylor and Dr. Gerald Waguespack are former students of Southern Miss Director of Bands Dr. Tom Fraschillo.
Along with the instruments, a Southern Miss show would not be complete without a kick line, courtesy of The Dixie Darlings, who have performed alongside The Pride since 1954. Members are chosen based on advanced dance technique and performance skills, according to Tracy Smith, Dixie Darlings director. They also need to possess the ability to learn choreography in an extremely short amount of time.
Smith said The Pride and Dixie Darlings normally have two weeks to put together a show with practice averaging at about 13 hours each week, or more if they attend a pep rally practice or tutorial.
"I do not think the average viewer realizes the amount of work that goes into making the dances look good for the field," Smith said. " We are a really large dance team. So, to get that many girls to look alike takes a lot of concentration and effort. Then, they have to smile and make it look easy, all while counting the music, concentrating on the choreography, keeping the formation and executing proper dance technique."
Some of the dancers also belong to the Southern Misses, the dance group Southern Miss sports fans will see during basketball season. Jennifer Centola, head coach, said her team focuses more on hip hop, jazz and lyrical styles of dance. The dancers recently performed at the Golden Eagle Welcome Week pep rally.
"This year the girls are filled with excitement and ready to entertain and perform at every event invited to," Centola said. "They are energetic, outgoing, and ready to dance until they tear up the floor, because they are so fierce."
The Pride at The University of Southern Mississippi practice for gameday. (Southern Miss Public Relations photo by Jeannie Peng)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.