PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s marching band is gearing up for its biggest performance this year, the annual Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis, Tennessee this weekend.
UAPB’s marching band has already been on national TV, performed at NFL games and even for presidents. Band Director John Graham Jr. said their nickname is “The Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South” and they’re preparing to live up to that name this weekend.
The practice for the classic comes after UAPB is said to take over for Jackson State this year in the classic against Tennessee State University.
“We don’t consider ourselves as a replacement, we just consider ourselves as our time has arrived,” Graham said.
According to the website, the Southern Heritage Classic has attracted thousands since 1990. However, it doesn’t gain attention just for the football game, but the melody of the band as well.
Graham said they’re putting together something special for the classic.
“So, we’re going to be musical, we’re going to march and we’re from the mid-south so we will bring a show,” Graham said.
Drum Major Cameron Walker is a senior at UAPB and said they’ve been rehearsing tirelessly.
“But I know it’s worth it, we’re just putting in a lot of work and a lot of long hours,” Walker said.
Walker said performing at the classic will be the band’s biggest performance of the year.
“Since we first found out over time the impact has gotten bigger and bigger and the closer we get the more important it has been for the university as a whole, and the band program even to the alumni,” Walker said. “It seems everyone is looking forward to it and it’s motivating us.”
Walker said they’re practicing not only for the halftime performance but what comes after.
“Once the game ends and it’s just us and the other band, I know we will spend a lot of time playing that music,” Walker said.
Sessilee Shavers is a tuba player in the marching band and said there’s a lot of responsibility when it comes to playing the biggest instrument in the band.
“Some bands you tend to hear a lot of people and they go for the louder, broader sound, but we always go for the musicality sound,” Shavers said.
She said she’s happy to be a part of UAPB’s legacy.
“I feel like I’m a part of something really awesome because this is only part of a generation of people who have come through this band,” Shavers said.
Everett Tobler plays the trombone, and he said the band is practicing for multiple things.
“We’re going to be having to do parades and pep rallies and everything for preparation for it so the hype is real but we’re ready,” Tobler said.
He added that everyone is taking this time seriously.
“Once you see the results and the finished product of the performance, it was all worth it,” Tobler said.
Graham said the band is set to leave Friday for the Southern Heritage Classic on Saturday which is at 6 p.m. inside the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee.