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Sound of the Natural State will get special attention at Code Red game, Thursday, Nov. 8


JONESBORO -- When the Sound of the Natural State, the marching band at Arkansas State University, takes the field to perform Thursday evening (Nov. 8) during the “Code Red ” game with UL-Monroe, lots of eyes will be paying close attention to the halftime show.

Sure, the Liberty Bank Stadium crowd will be watching, and those following on ESPNU should get a glimpse, but prospective band members will be giving the A-State band a closer look as they make their plans for the future.

This is the time of year that high school seniors are getting very serious about deciding which university to attend, and the opportunity to participate in marching band is very important to many talented students.

“Unlike most of the other performing groups in the Department of Music, the largest portion of marching band members are majoring in a program other than music,” according to Dr. Tim Oliver, director of bands at Arkansas State.

The halftime performance Thursday will hold particular interest for the high school band participants in the recent Arkansas Open Marching Band Festival, hosted by A-State bands for the fifth consecutive year.

“This event drew almost 20 high school marching bands from Arkansas and Tennessee to perform at Liberty Bank Stadium and be professionally adjudicated,” Dr. Oliver continued.  “With that many students along with family and friends in Jonesboro for the day, the festival also provided a perfect opportunity to show off A-State’s band.  Our very own Sound of the Natural State, directed by our new director of athletic bands, Dr. Sarah Labovitz, provided an exhibition performance which was the musical highlight of the event.”

Participating bands ranged from Rivercrest, a class A school in Mississippi County, to Union City, Tenn., Bryant and Jonesboro, class AAAAA schools.

Because she is new to Arkansas State, Dr. Labovitz brings a fresh perspective to the importance of the festival at Arkansas State.

“This marching contest is first rate,” she asserted.  “Liberty Bank Stadium is a wonderful facility, and the collection of people who come together to host and run this event make it spectacular.” 

She cited in particular Brady Massey of Pocahontas High School, Randy Knowles, Deb Honeycutt, and Tim Oliver, at A-State, and the student members of the Sound of the Natural State for their contributions to making the festival so successful.

“As a collegiate marching band director, you want as many opportunities as possible for high school students to come to your campus and to see your band perform,” Labovitz continued.  “This event accomplishes both of those things.  I think the combination of our great stadium and the fantastic job the Sound of the Natural State did in performance can only help draw future students here to ASU.”

Each band participating in the festival was adjudicated by an expert panel and received a score and taped comments and suggestions for improvements.  Because of the strong music program at ASU, many of the high school band directors are A-State alumni and enjoy bringing their students to the campus where they earned their degrees.

Members of the Sound of the Natural State served as student volunteer workers for the event.  Band members worked concessions, helped with parking, served as band guides, and gate guards, she added.

“The visiting bands were not only able to see the ‘Sound’ members perform, but also talk and interact with them throughout every step of the day,” Labovitz also said, emphasizing the importance of peer-to-peer communication in the recruitment process.

Oliver added, “Each year, we draw a more competitive field of bands, and now this festival has become one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind in the Mid-South.  In conjunction with this, several thousand spectators supported these bands and were a part of our community for the day.  We are very grateful that the Athletic Department helps make this important university outreach event possible and we look forward to continuing it in 2013.”

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