Valdosta State University
VALDOSTA — Wearing brand new uniforms and led by two drum majors who are so in sync they finish each other’s sentences, Valdosta State University’s Blazin’ Brigade Marching Band is ready to entertain fans during Blazer football games — both in the stands and on the field at halftime.
Founded in 1983, this year marks the Blazin’ Brigade’s 30th anniversary at VSU.
“I am very excited about this season,” said Eric E. Bradshaw, director of VSU athletic bands. “We are trying something completely different from what we normally do … I am interested to see how it is received.”
VSU’s Blazin’ Brigade debuted the first of two halftime shows planned for the 2013 season on Saturday, Sept. 7, in Macon, during the Blazers’ defeat of Fort Valley State University. Hometown fans will have a chance to see the show on Saturday, Sept. 21, when the Blazers take on Shorter University at 7 p.m. in Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. Additional home performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26, and 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7.
The Blazin’ Brigade’s first halftime show features “Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky, “Big Noise from Winnetka” by Bob Haggart and Ray Baud, and “Nessun Dorma” by Giacomo Puccini. Bradshaw said it is a classical show, one more reminiscent of that performed during band competitions.
“Will fans recognize the music? Yes and no,” shared Devin Driskell, 20, drum major. “This is music people have heard before, but most won’t recognize that right off the bat. It’s different from what we’ve usually done.”
Chad Capers, 19, drum major, said that the Blazin’ Brigade’s first show will appeal to former and current band students, especially, and showcase skills that a competition judge might look for in an award-winning band — such as musicality, visual impact, artistic interpretation, and difficulty of the music and drill.
“We don’t compete, but we do go to high school marching competitions to serve as an exhibition band,” Bradshaw explained. “This gives the high school band students a chance to see what we do and is an excellent — and probably our most productive — way to recruit.”
VSU’s Blazin’ Brigade plans to perform three exhibitions this season, including an event in Metro Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 19, a first for the South Georgia marching band in at least 12 years.
“We did perform once last year in the North Atlanta area,” Bradshaw said, “and it was great. We are also very excited to be going back to the Heart of Georgia band competition in Warner Robins on Saturday, Oct. 26. This is a great festival and also an area where we are able to recruit a lot of students. Our other exhibition is in our home stadium and is geared towards the high school bands in our close proximity — VSU’s backyard. It is hosted by Valdosta High School and will occur on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Aside from that, it is always great to perform for our fans here at VSU that come to the football games. It makes our job much easier to know that we get to play for the defending national champions — and they are perennial playoff contenders.”
Driskell and Capers are both from Warner Robins
Driskell, the son of Rhodenia Talton, graduated from Warner Robins High School in 2011 and was drum major of the Demon Marching Band his senior year. A junior music education major at VSU, he plays bass trombone in the New Jazz Ensemble, the Concert Band in the spring, the Trombone Ensemble, and the Pep Band during basketball games. He said that the best part of being in a college marching band is exciting the fans and having fun in the stands.
“I am excited to see where the season goes,” he said. “Last year, the Blazers went all the way to win the national championship. I am very happy to be leading the band through this experience.”
Capers, the son of Maurice and Leslie Capers, graduated from Warner Robins High School in 2012, following in Driskell’s footsteps as drum major his senior year. He is a sophomore music major at VSU, a percussionist, and a member of the Percussion Ensemble and Concert Band. He also studies voice and performs with the Chamber Singers.
“I am usually performing in the ensemble, so I am really excited to be back on the other side and able to hear what the band plays,” he said, referring to his role as Blazin’ Brigade drum major.
VSU’s Blazin’ Brigade will switch to its second halftime show about midway through the season. Themed “A Brief History of American Pop Music,” the show will be more of a traditional college marching band halftime performance, featuring fan favorites such as “Goody Golly Miss Molly” (1950s), “Think” (1960s), “Stayin’ Alive” (1970s), “Welcome to the Jungle” (1980s), “Basket Case” (1990s), and “My Music Knows What You Did In The Dark” (today).
Contact Eric E. Bradshaw at (229) 249-4965 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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