Band Director Lawrence Jackson kept his pep talk simple moments before Southern University’s Human Jukebox marching band took the field for its six-minute pregame show in front of more than 70,000 people at Super Bowl XLVII.
“Stay focused, execute and have fun — that’s all I told them because they already knew what to do,” Jackson said in a phone interview from a bus headed to a Golden Corral after the performance. “It’s muscle memory now. We rehearsed so much, practiced so much.”
Just before the band went onto the field, CBS, the network with the contract to televise the Super Bowl, cut to a commercial.
Jackson said he and the students knew beforehand that the band would not be featured on television but that did not change how the band practiced or performed.
While lining up on the sidelines for the performance, Jackson allowed the students to take their cellphones out so they could take photos of each other, the crowd and the stars lined up on the sideline, because he said he knew this was something they might never experience again.
But once it was time to work, the band performed admirably, he said.
“I thought it went quite well,” Jackson said. “I thought the Super Bowl audience received us very well.”
He said he was most impressed with “the tremendous sound, tone quality and high energy the students exemplified.”
He said he did hear some “Who Dat” chants while the band second-lined off the field.
Amechi Ugwu, 22, a senior baritone player from Houston, said seeing stars like Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys lined up on the sideline did not faze the band members because they had seen stars at other shows where they’ve performed.
“The whole band was pumped and everybody was on the same wavelength,” Ugwu said.
Melvin Miles Jr., 22, a senior tenor saxophone player from Washington, D.C., said he came to Southern for opportunities like this.
He said while the band lined up before taking the field, the “intense” environment did not affect him or the band because he knew they were ready.
“I didn’t feel nervous at all,” he said
Jackson said he hopes his students learned something from the experience, something they can take with them after leaving school.
“Work ethic, perseverance and discipline,” he said. “It’s all about preparing a student for when they get out in the workforce.”