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SU’s director of bands, Lawrence Jackson, decides to retire

5/30/2014

 

Lawrence Jackson, the director of the world-renowned Southern University "Human Jukebox" Marching Band, is retiring. The Crowley native has been Director of Bands on the Baton Rouge campus since 2006.

"I'm excited. I'm pumped," Jackson said Thursday afternoon after announcing his decision to SUBR Chancellor Dr. James L. Llorens.

"I think I'm leaving the band in great shape," said Jackson, who has been associated on a fulltime basis with the SU band for 18 years and five years part time.

The former Jukebox tuba player said, "I could have directed this band for another eight years. But there were more reasons to retire than to stay," he said. "At first it was hard to come to grips that I was going to retire. But I took some leave time to see what it would be like to be retired. I liked it."

"The best thing is that I'm leaving on my terms. I love everybody, I love Southern University and I have no problems," he said. "This is the time I have chosen to retire."

While his retirement officially takes place July 1, Jackson said he would probably take some leave time before then.

Llorens praised Jackson for his leadership. "Southern University has been blessed to have Mr. Jackson lead the famed human jukebox and continue the great legacy left by former band directors Dr. Isaac Greggs and Dr. Ludwig Freeman."

"During my tenure as Chancellor I had the comfort in knowing that 'Jack' was in charge," Llorens said. "He is an accomplished musician, arranger and director, but more importantly, he has consistently developed the young men and women under his leadership into productive students and, after graduation, productive citizens. He has stressed discipline and has been a valuable mentor to hundreds of band members."

"He has been a true ambassador for the Jaguar Nation," Llorens said.  "I am proud to have been associated with him. I consider him a lifelong friend, and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Jackson played in SU's band from 1971 to 1975. Nicknamed "Crowley" after his hometown in Louisiana, Jackson would win several band awards including, most outstanding, top grade point average and he was a section leader.

After graduation in 1975, he got married and managed several convenience stores before landing a job in 1976 as Director of Bands in Clinton. As band director he managed the Clinton High Marching band, and simultaneously taught music at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.

"I went to three Clinton schools every day," he said.

In 1996, then Director of Bands Dr. Isaac Greggs asked Jackson to be an assistant band director. "Dr. Greggs told me at that time that he wanted me to succeed him," he said.

Jackson said, "I learned so much about leading a marching band under Dr. Greggs. He was a great teacher."

But, Jackson said his and Greggs' enjoyment of music extended beyond the marching band. "We wanted the musicianship of our students to be reflected in the Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble. That's where our students really excel."

Greggs, who died in April, retired as band director in 2005 and Jackson succeeded him in 2006.

"It was exciting," he said. "But, there was no time to marvel over the position."

Under his direction, the marching band has continued to maintain the national prominence it had gained under Greggs' leadership. The band has won several performance competitions, was selected by the U.S. State Department to represent the country abroad and performed at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans.

At the end of the 2013 football season the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) named its top college marching bands and the Human Jukebox finished second behind The Ohio State marching band.

"To be recognized by the NCAA as the second best band, behind The Ohio State band is one of my highest moments. Ohio State has a million dollar budget and we have a bubble gum budget compared to them," he said laughing.

In the meantime, Jackson said, "I am leaving the band in good hands with (Assistant Director of Bands) Nathan Haymer. I feel that Mr. Haymer will be an outstanding band director. He has his own ideas about how to do things. I expect that he will do things his own way."

Haymer, he said, "is a younger man who will bring new excitement to the band. It is my hope that fans will anticipate more great shows in the future."

The University has not announced Jackson's successor.

Reflecting on the band performances while he has been director, Jackson said the Michael Jackson tribute show at the University of Louisiana Lafayette is among the top. A YouTube video of the show has more that 300,000 views.

He also mentioned the show done at the Louisiana Superdome 2006, when the Saints played their first game at home after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

"And, every time we formed the halftime score at games, the crowd would go crazy. That is always fun," he said.

Jackson reiterated that he and wife will have a great time in his retirement, saying he will be playing golf, conducting some band camps and whatever else he wants to do.

"Now, I'm still ready for 'war time,'" he said, using one of his famous phrases repeated before a major performance or competition with another band. "When I see the band on the field next football season, I'll probably say, "It's 'war time.' But I won't be out there and that's just fine with me."