Drawers are empty and memories are sealed in boxes.
The Southern University Human Jukebox Marching Band’s performance in last year’s Super Bowl? A photo is somewhere in the stack, as well as photos of Director of Bands Lawrence Jackson with late director and mentor Isaac Greggs, who recommended Jackson for the job.
Now it’s time for Jackson to say goodbye. After 38 years of band directing, eight of them as Southern’s director of bands, Jackson, 60, will officially retire on July 1.
Jackson removes yet another stack of folders from his desk drawer in his office in the Tourgee A. DeBose Music Building on campus. All are a part of his record at the university, where Jackson was able to achieve so much with so little.
His retirement, he says to set the record straight, wasn’t based on how much he was getting paid or how much was allotted to the band in the university budget.
“I’m happy,” Jackson says. “I’m grateful for my time here, and I think I’m leaving the band in good shape. We’ve accomplished so much as a band, it’s time for someone new to step in, someone with fresh ideas, but someone who respects the traditions and the way things are done in the band.”
Still, there’s the money. Southern University was hit by state budget cuts during Jackson’s tenure, and salary increases were nonexistent.
“I received an increase from the academic side, but never as band director. And neither did my staff,” he says, adding that he hopes his replacement will be better paid.
Jackson also was discouraged by the lack of funding for the band, probably the most high-profile ambassador of the university. He understands budget cuts limited the university’s funds.
“But everyone still expected the band to be there,” Jackson says. “The staff did this stuff out of love, but they’re struggling financially. I just want the band to succeed, and I want the new band director to be able to do greater things. There were more reasons to retire than not. There’s so much I want to do outside the band, and it was time.”
Now he reflects on his career, especially his time at Southern.
“Look at this picture,” he says, removing a small snapshot from an album. “This is my wife and me before we were married. We were in college. I started talking to her in the eighth grade, and we’ve been together since. Her name is Alfreda, and she married me the day after I graduated from college in 1975. I didn’t have a job, and she still married me.”
Jackson played tuba in the SU’s Human Jukebox when Greggs was in charge, while earning his bachelor’s degree in music education. He worked first at a furniture store then managed a convenience store before being hired as band director at Clinton High School. His starting salary was $10,000 a year.
“I was going to stay one year, but I fell in love with the community,” Jackson says. “I ended up staying 20 years, and I not only was directing the high school band but teaching band in the elementary and middle school.”
Greggs kept in touch during that time, hiring Jackson as a part-time music arranger in 1996 while Jackson continued his job in Clinton. Meanwhile, Jackson and his wife became parents to two sons, Myron, now a police officer in Houston, and Jamar, who, at age 26, would become the youngest administrator at Central High School. They have three grandchildren, Caleb, 13; Lauren, 10; and Amber, 8.
Jackson finally retired from Clinton High School and was named assistant band director at Southern, stepping up to the top position upon Greggs’ retirement in 2005.
Also in the photo album is a picture of Jackson and Greggs just before the Human Jukebox marched in the inaugural parade for President Bill Clinton. Jackson’s favorite moments are many, the most recent being the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s naming Southern second behind Ohio State in its 2013 lineup of top college bands.
Jackson’s going to miss working with the 215 young people in the band, as well as those in the Wind Ensemble. He’s especially going to miss working with the staff.