Family, connection keep Sound of the South alumni returning for Alumni Day

SOTS alumni gathered to perform with the current band for Alumni Band Day on Nov. 18.

SOTS alumni gathered to perform with the current band for Alumni Band Day on Nov. 18.

The Sound of the South loomed a little larger during halftime of TROY’s last home game of the regular season as they welcomed SOTS alumni to play once again inside the walls of Veterans Memorial Stadium during Sound of the South Alumni Day. 

Alumni of all ages from near and far traveled back to Troy on Saturday, Nov. 18 to storm the field once more in what has become an annual tradition. 

Dr. Mark Walker, Director of Bands, said Alumni Day is one of the most anticipated games for the Sound of the South.

“The SOTS Reunion is always a wonderful time for SOTS Alumni from all eras to gather together in fellowship and share stories, memories, current events and great music,” he said. “It is wonderful to have alumni from the mid-1960s and earlier, as well as alumni who graduated last year all participating together.”

For Hal Murphy, returning to campus and playing with the current members is a reminder of the connection they all share.

“Every time I come back to TROY, I’m just amazed at the transformation. To be able to stand on the field with the current members of the Sound of the South, there’s such a connection,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you many of their names, but just seeing them in that uniform and us playing the fanfare together is just really special. It’s a really, really cool experience for us to connect with the younger students.”

An alum plays his instrument

Murphy graduated from the University with a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1987 and later a master’s degree in education in 1998. He marched trumpet and played the French horn in the symphony band during his years at TROY.

“I don’t think I really understood how special it was when I was here. It took getting out and seeing what others experienced in their college experience that showed me just what we have at TROY,” he said. “I always knew TROY was good because of its reputation, and I knew that’s where I needed to go if I wanted to be a band director. Like the alma mater says, to be kind of corny, I have met my lifelong friends at TROY, so that in itself is invaluable to me.”

After working in education for 32 years, Murphy has been retired for the last four and became reconnected to TROY through his daughter, Anna Grace, who came here as a freshman on a band scholarship. She’ll graduate in December with an accounting degree. 

“I’ve enjoyed seeing it through her eyes and experiencing all of this again through her,” he said. “It’s been extra wonderful for us to reconnect to TROY and the band through her participation, and she loves it as much as I do.”

After serving the last two years as President of the Troy University Band Alumni Chapter, Murphy’s role is transitioning to Immediate Past-President in January.

“As a board, we’re so proud of Dr. Walker and what he’s done,” he said. “The current Sound of the South is just amazing. They’re wonderful, amazing students. We could not be prouder of them for carrying on the tradition.”

Andrew Womack, a 2020 graduate from Henagar, Alabama, marched mellophone in his days as a member of the SOTS and said being back on campus felt like being back home.

“It was joyful. Game days are fun and exciting, but to be on the field again, to play the fanfare, to play the fight song…it was incredible,” he said. “My goal is always to find somebody in the crowd and play to them, and I got to do that again. I had not played my horn in two to three years, so my lips hurt for sure, but it was just so much fun.”

Womack’s younger sister is a current member of the band, and he stayed in Troy after graduation for work. A year after he graduated, he decided to join the Alumni Chapter to stay connected and is now Member at Large.

“I wanted to give back to the organization that had given me so much. We get to network and it just got me plugged in quicker back to a family,” he said. “You know your TROY family when you arrive and you know your SOTS family, but now you’re a part of a SOTS family that’s even more people and generations, almost 60 years’ worth of family.”

A large group of SOTS alumni playing during halftime.

Lori Hart, a 1979 graduate who also studied music education, marched alto saxophone from 1975-1978 and was section leader for the 1977 and 1978 seasons was one of many alums who took the field for part of the halftime show.

“Being a member of the SOTS was life changing. I’m from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and everyone thought I would attend University of Alabama,” she said. “Once I met Dr. Long and saw the SOTS, I knew that I wanted to attend TROY. I made lifelong friends and memories. I learned lifelong leadership skills, the importance of a strong work ethic and the importance of giving back to others. I think I could write a book about how wonderful my days of being part of the SOTS!”

Hart is currently the Director of Bands for Guntersville High School in Guntersville, Alabama, hometown of the late Dr. Long, founder of the Sound of the South, and will begin a two-year term as President of the Alumni Chapter in January.

The Sound of the South will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2025, and Hart said she hopes to have 600 members on the field for the alumni performance. 

“I also hope that we will be able to dramatically increase our Troy University Band Alumni membership,” she said. “It is important that we give back to the organization that gave us all so much and changed the lives of all that have been a member over the past 58 years.”