Editor’s note: This is the second story in a four-part series focusing on area college band drum majors.
With a football season’s worth of back bends under his belt, Keith Morgan has no worries.
“At first, you’re thinking about how you’re about to step out in front of 40,000 people,” he says. “You’re the first person they see in the band, and you know you have to do that move.”
That “move” is one of the signatures of Southern University’s Human Jukebox Marching Band. The drum major marches out in front of the 225-member unit and bends backward to touch the top of his tall hat to the field.
Morgan entered his second year as drum major this season, and he no longer thinks of the “move.” It’s simply a part of his leadership duties.
“Once I got the hang of it, I really didn’t think about it anymore,” he says. “It’s still a reality of me, but I can’t be nervous.”
Besides, Morgan has so many other responsibilities tied to his position. Once a band member is chosen as the Human Jukebox’s field leader, he keeps that position until graduation.
Morgan was only a 19-year-old sophomore when he made his debut in 2013. Little did he know that season would be former Director of Bands Lawrence Jackson’s last.
Jackson retired in June, and the Southern University Board of Directors promoted Assistant Band Director Nathan Haymer to the top position.
“So, I was Mr. Jackson’s last drum major, and I’m Mr. Haymer’s first drum major,” Morgan says. “There have been some changes. Mr. Jackson had his style, and I respected that. Now Mr. Haymer has his style, and it’s different. It’s energized and upbeat, and I like that, too.”
But no matter who’s in charge, the band is still the Human Jukebox.
“We’re still Southern 100 percent,” Morgan says.
Morgan set his goal to become drum major after watching Southern’s band march in the 2010 Battle of the Bands competition at Tad Gormley Stadium in his hometown of New Orleans. He was a high school junior at the time and a member of his band’s percussion section.
He was a cymbal player at Southern when he tried out for drum major, yet he isn’t a music major.
“I’m majoring in mass communication,” Morgan says.
The Southern University Jaguars have already played two games, one away and one at home. Fans have seen the band under its new leadership and cheered when Morgan took his first step on the field.
But again, there’s so much more to Morgan’s job, so much that happens behind the scenes.
“Being a leader is more than just leading the band,” he says. “It’s about how you carry yourself off the field as well as on the field. Everyone is watching, and I represent the band.”
Morgan also is serious about setting an example for his fellow band members.
“The main thing for me is to stick to the three P’s — prayer, practice and patience,” he says. “I’m constantly practicing and getting insight to perfect my craft. I know we set our standards high, and we want to be perfect, but I have to be patient.”
“Because I have to work hard to get there,” he says. “We all work hard to get there.”
But the work seems a little easier this year. Morgan knew what to expect when returning to his position, so he’s more relaxed.
“But I can never get too comfortable,” he says, laughing.
Meaning summer wasn’t exactly a break for Morgan. He practiced during his months away from school, polishing his conducting skills and keeping limber for the “move.”
He knew these skills had to be in place upon his return to campus, because preseason practice would mean helping incoming freshmen and setting a leadership precedent for returning upperclassmen.
All of them look to Morgan when the show begins.
And it all culminates in the “move.”