Jacksonville State Bound for London

Photo courtesy of the Jacksonville State University band

The Jacksonville (Ala.) State University Marching Southerners will take its show on the road—and across the sea—to perform in the 2012 New Year’s Parade in London.

“I think it’s going to be a great way to expose the kids to different cultures,” says Kenneth Bodiford, director of bands. “A lot of kids have never left the South. This is very huge for them to be able to travel to London.”

The band was nominated and selected by a committee that scouts bands in the United States on behalf of the parade organizers. The Honourable Roger Bramble, Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, traveled to Jacksonville to present the band with a formal invitation.

“We had a fanfare written for his arrival on fanfare trumpets, and they really got a kick out of that,” Bodiford says. Bramble surprised Bodiford and the band by announcing that they had been selected not just to march in the parade but also to lead it.

The 2012 parade holds extra significance because it will serve as the first official event for Queen Elizabeth’s II’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating her 60 years on the throne, and the first official event associated with the London 2012 Olympics.

Other than the parade, the marching band will perform several standstill concerts, and the concert band will perform in several cathedrals. Students will also take part in four different sightseeing tours.

“I am very excited,” Bodiford says. “I thought that it would be a great opportunity for the band to get some national exposure, and it’s a great opportunity for recruiting for the future. This is a great reward for all of the hard years of work.”

Over the next year, JSU will be working hard to raise the required $3,000 in travel costs for each band member. The group is already planning two CD releases and several concerts as well as hosting high school marching contests to help offset the costs.

“That’s just scratching the surface for things,” Bodiford says. “The students are more than willing to fundraise and come up with the money to make this thing happen.”