SU band, dance camp hits record number…again


Southern University's "Human Jukebox" Marching Band has attracted another record number of participants in its summer band and dance camp.

This time the number is some 450 students, ranging from middle school to high school. They come from all over the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some students are attending for the second and third time. Add another 55 high school band directors and dance coaches, the number swells to 505 participants.

"This is just continuing to grow beyond anything we thought about years ago," said Director of Bands Nathan Haymer.  "The popularity of the band and Youtube is bringing more students here."

Southern's marching band its Dancing Doll dance team have won national and international acclaim for their performances at Super Bowls, inaugurations, parades and most notably at halftime of football games.

The great thing about the growing numbers and the repeat students is that "it gives us a chance to recruit students not only for the band but for the university. These students tell their friends about Southern University," Haymer said.

Last summer the band and dance camp attracted some 440 students, the largest number in the camp's 17-year history. The previous record, set in the summer of 2013, was 270.

According to the band director, there are 340 band participants and another 110 student dancers on campus. Haymer said.

"As we continue to grow, we may grow out of the band hall," he said. "But that's a good problem to have."

The band camp members receive instruction from Haymer, the assistant band directors and some current marching band members. The dance camp students are lead by member of the band's dance team, the Dancing Dolls.

Kimberly Hatfield, a 9th grader from Barnesville, Ga., said she had never heard of Southern's band until her Lamar County High School band director told her about the "Human Jukebox."  Now after three days, the saxophone player is sold on the instruction. "I love it here," she said. 

Jamie Taylor, from New Iberia's Westgate High School, said her dance sponsor recommended the camp, but she was already very aware of the Dancing Dolls. The 15-year-old, 10th grader praised the dance leaders. "This is amazing. No one laughs at you if you mess up. They encourage you."

Taylor said she watched the Dancing Dolls up close at the annual Bayou Classic football game in New Orleans pitting SU against cross-state rival Grambling State University. "When I saw them (Dancing Dolls) I knew I wanted to do that."

The band gained international attention earlier this year when it accompanied Floyd Mayweather into a Las Vegas Hotel as he and Manny Pacquiao staged their first press conference leading up to their mega fight. Videos of the band was a staple on YouTube.



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