Student advocate spurs creation of marching band

Student advocate spurs creation of marching band

Sept. 4, 2015

When the LaGrange College Marching Band debuted at the first football game of the season at Callaway Stadium, it made college history.

“As far as I can tell, this is the very first marching band at the college,” said Patricia Barrett, Archives Associate at Lewis Library. “We’ve had an occasional pep band, but this is the first marching band.”

Leading the inaugural group of musicians will be Drum Major Jalen Smith ’17 of LaGrange. In fact, Jalen has a large part in the group’s formation, according to President Dan McAlexander.

“A couple of years ago, a student asked if he could give a presentation about why the college needed a marching band,” McAlexander said. “Jalen came in dressed in a dark business suit and tie, and had a PowerPoint demonstration. He was poised and deliberate, and I was struck that he took it upon himself to advocate for something he really cared about.”

Also at the meeting was Athletic Director Jennifer Claybrook and Debbie Ogle, former Director of Choral Studies.

The group was fascinated that Jalen was an incoming freshman.

“He was very serious and unusually professional for a new freshman,” McAlexander said. “We were all so impressed with him, and I told him we would seriously consider moving forward with it. I am delighted we were able to start the band while he could still participate.”

Jalen said two of the main points in his presentation were school spirit and raising awareness of the school.

“I knew how important the band was in high school, and what the football games would have been like without it,” he said. “When a band takes the field or marches in a parade, it shows what great things are going on at that school and makes people curious about what else that school might offer. By getting the college in the public eye, it can help the entire school to grow.”

Josh Roberts, Director of Bands, said the first couple of months on the job were a bit hectic as he worked to recruit students.

“I started here April 1, and I was still at my other job (associate director of bands at Newnan High School) until mid-May,” he said. “Finding students was wild and crazy, and we didn’t have much time.”

Jalen was one of his first recruits.

“A week before band camp in August, he was our only trumpet,” Roberts laughed. “But after we played at Spirit and Traditions, we had three people sign up on the spot. It’s all about people knowing we are here.”

There are currently 20 musicians in the band, but that number continues to increase. A lot of that is fueled by the students’ own enthusiasm, he said.

“Lee Johnson (Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Music) told me the other day that the band kids have a sparkle in their eyes. They know they are part of something special, and they are very proud of that. I think that is awesome.”

Roberts said this band may be a bit different from what people usually picture when they think about a marching band.

“We’ll be adding our own spin,” he said. “Right now, we won’t be doing a traditional halftime show with marching band formations because we’re too small. But we will be performing a halftime show that we hope will surprise and delight the crowd.”

Jalen said he sees excitement everywhere he goes.

“My classmates can’t wait until Saturday,” he said. “I’ve lived in LaGrange my entire life and a lot of my teachers are alumni of the college. Many of them have told me how excited they are about the band.”

The musicians understand the importance of their endeavor, Jalen said.

“This is a chance to be part of something that is groundbreaking,” he said. “I think over time it will transform this campus. Even something like playing at Spirit and Traditions means that the music is coming from the students themselves. It’s the small things that add up that will make a difference.”

When asked if there was any question that he would be a member of the band, Jalen smiled wryly and said, “You know, if you make a fuss about having something and then they make it and you’re not a part of it, that’s not cool.

“Not cool at all.”

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