For 131 new Troy University students, Saturday marks more than just the opening of their first collegiate football season.
Saturday will also be the day they officially become members of the Sound of the South Marching Band – SOTS, “the Best Band in the Land.”
SOTS members wear a special medallion on their uniforms, and they were presented those by Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr. during a special ceremony Saturday in Claudia Crosby Theater. It may be the only college band in the country where the University chief presents the medals in a tradition dating back to 1997.
“In high school, I dreamed of the day that I would get to be a part of the Sound of the South,” said freshman Shelby Kerns. “This medallion ceremony makes it official. I am member of the greatest organization. This ceremony is a tradition that every member before me has taken part in, and I am so honored to be involved and be a part of the wonderful family that is the Sound of the South.”
That tradition began under then Director of Bands Robert W. Smith. The medallions are roughly four inches round and are custom-made, six-pointed stars that only Troy University band members wear. Anyone in the band for four years gets to keep them as keepsakes; those who don’t do four years, don’t.
“It’s the only ceremony of its kind among any of the college bands in the country where the chancellor or president of the university makes time to attend this kind of event,” said Director of Bands Dr. Mark Walker. “It’s hugely important to the band members and it’s the symbol of fraternity – the camaraderie, the togetherness – of being a member of the Sound of the South.”
Chancellor Hawkins agrees the ceremony is important, if to demonstrate to band members the important role the band plays in the life of the University.
“The members do this because they love music and they love the camaraderie and they love being a part of something bigger than themselves,” he said. “When (former Director of Bands) Dr. Johnny Long established this band more than 50 years ago, I think he knew he was helping to build a great tradition at TROY. Literally, it’s in his honor that I want these students to recognize the importance of their role.”
It had been Long who hung SOTS with its moniker, “the Best Band in the Land,” and Dr. Hawkins said that the University’s largest student organization is a “lasting brotherhood.”
Freshman Ricky Treloar echoed those fraternal sentiments.
“It’s an honor to participate in this ceremony and to be a part of this amazing organization,” he said. “The culture of the band is very special and unique, and I’m so glad to be here.”