HATTIESBURG – For University of Southern Mississippi senior percussionist Jimi Brown, the football game-day adrenaline surge starts with a spirited tailgating drumline show outside of Bennett Auditorium on campus. Feeding off of the vibrant wave of cheers erupting from the throng of Southern Miss football fans, Brown and his fellow percussionists march into The Rock with a clear mission in mind: to provide the beats that drive the cleats.
“On game day, it really does feel like we’re part of the team,” Brown said. “Just as the football players practice every week to get their game plan down, we sweat it out on the [Pride] field every week to get ours down…and when we step into The Rock, both of those game plans come together for one incredible show.”
Brown is a member of the Pride of Mississippi Marching Band’s drumline, a tight-knit squad of 25 students—some of whom are non-music majors—divided into four sections: bass, tenor, snare and cymbals. Going into the season, both the bass and tenor sections were made up of new faces, posing a challenge for Dr. John Wooton, percussion professor at Southern Miss, and his graduate assistant Kevin Welborn.
Despite their lack of experience, Wooton said he has been impressed with the performance of the two sections so far. “When they entered band camp, they knew that we had our work cut out, and it wasn’t just going to be a walk in the park,” Wooton said. “They rose to the occasion, working hard to learn street beats, fight songs, and halftime shows all in a single week before the start of the semester.”
The strong cohesion of the unit is evident not just in the way they encourage one another during the arduous two-hour-long drill sessions, but also in the camaraderie they share outside of practice.
All drumline members are part of Phi Boota Roota, a national fraternity dedicated to supporting percussion programs across the country. Following the namesake of their fraternity, the Southern Miss drumline have their own Phi Boota Roota intramural football team; they routinely play ultimate Frisbee as well.
“We have a really good cohesion, both on and off of the practice field,” says Brown. “I guess you could say we have our own little drumline family.”
Members of the Pride of Mississippi Marching Band’s drumline strut proudly in front of Bennett Auditorium recently. (Southern Miss Photo by Kelly Dunn)
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.