Hip-hop, hard rock and country aren’t musical genres typically associated with university bands.
But a group of Troy University students, under the guidance of faculty member Robert Smith, is not only writing and recording within those genres, but performing at area festivals and even releasing albums.
POPulus is TROY’s pop music ensemble, which gives students from the Music Industry Program a chance to hone their skills and practice what they learn.
Recently wrapping up its fifth year of existence, POPulus consists of writers, singers, musicians, sound engineers and others within the Music Industry Program. In the last year, the group has performed at the Dothan Opera House and Troy Fest, and released an album, “Drive.”
The students who comprise POPulus come from a variety of different backgrounds, something that shines through in the diversity within the group’s music.
“What we do here is develop artists, musicians of all kinds from all places,” said Ava Symone, a freshman music industry major from the Bahamas who, in addition to singing with POPulus, has been a backup singer for rapper Flo Rida. “We are all students, so it feels more personal than working with people on the outside, because for the most part you don’t really know them. As students, we build a relationship and it becomes a family of some sort.”
The group performs a number of cover versions of classic pop songs from a range of genres, from Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ with Disaster” to Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” but also makes time for original material written by the students.
The band even has its own record label, Ilium Records, which gives students experience in management, recording and booking.
POPulus music can be found on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and various other streaming sources.
Smith said the group, which recently held auditions, gives students a chance to see the music industry from a practical perspective.
Professional rock drummer Jason Sutter recently sat in on a POPulus rehearsal and came away impressed.
“Playing with the POPulus group is especially cool, because it is really unique to this school to have that program,” he said. “You can talk about the music industry all day long, but to have an actual living, breathing test kitchen for these students to be able to walk the walk and have these real-life scenarios that will come up, to me that’s everything. To actually put you through your paces before you’re there, that’s unique and important. More and more schools are going to follow suit.”