Pride of Dixie marching band recognized for excellence

While most students and community members can attest to the stellar performances of UNA’s Pride of Dixie Marching Band, the College Band Directors National Association gave its stamp of approval, too.

In February, the CBDNA recognized the “Pride of Dixie” Marching Band, the only NCAA Division II school it recognized.

“Every quadrant of the country has their own conference,” said Director of Bands Lloyd Jones. “So, in the South, we were chosen as one of the marching band programs to come and show our product in a video conference.”

Jones said he provided a video of the halftime show to a panel of six judges who chose the top collegiate bands to talk about their performance.

He said he believes the execution of the show and the pride the band members have in their performances were factors in the national recognition.

This is not the first time the band received recognition, he said.

“They’ve been invited to perform at the Bands of America National Championships two different times,” he said. “We were chosen two years in a row, which I’ve never heard of with that organization.”

The top high school bands compete in these championships in Indianapolis, he said. In 2013 and 2014, the POD performed as the exhibition band.

“We were very honored they wanted us to perform at the end of the night in front of 25,000 people,” he said. “That was a great place to be for our program and for our university to get our name on a national level.”

Seeing the POD perform in 2008 helped senior trumpet player Steven Cook make the decision to come to UNA, he said. He had planned to attend a different college, he said.

“I was blown away,” he said. “I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of that group because they played better than any group that I’d heard previously. Not only that, but they were just better people. That’s the kind of thing we want to leave wherever we go. That’s the reason why the POD keeps getting these awards and recognition. It’s because of that excellence.”

The band has also performed at the BOA Super Regionals in Atlanta, he said.

Performing at these events is a big deal, said senior Lionette Ashley Morgan.

Some of the high school bands competing have trampolines and flame throwers, she said. POD, a more traditional band, comes out to entertain, and the crowd loves it.

“We have the whole crowd on their feet,” she said.

Band members stay busy throughout the year with individual practices, group practices, classes and band camp in August, Jones said.

Practicing at least 10 hours per week during the marching and concert seasons is typical, Cook said.

During marching season, he practices at least one hour per day by himself, he said.

Then, sections usually arrive early to warm up before scheduled practice times, Cook said.

“It’s the slimmest schedule of any collegiate band I’m aware of in our state,” Jones said. “We don’t build in extra hours. We just try to be efficient in what we use because we want our students to be able to be involved in other things, too. I think it makes it more valuable to them if they can accomplish these things without putting in twice as many hours.”

The Auxiliary’s practice schedule is different from the band’s, Morgan said. The color guard, majorettes and Lionettes comprise the Auxiliary, which performs with the band at every show.

Practice typically runs about three hours per day through the week, including Saturday, she said. They begin practicing in the spring and continue through the summer to get ready for football season.

The band, Lionettes and auxiliary will soon be preparing and practicing their routines for the 2016-17 marching season.