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ASU's 2010 marching band, SOUND of the Natural State, is largest ever at university

September 13, 2010 -- When the 2010 edition of the SOUND of the Natural State takes the field for the first time on Saturday, Sept. 18, for ASU’s first home football game, it will be the largest marching band ever in the 81-year history of the Arkansas State University band program. The 2010 SOUND of the Natural State, directed by Dr. Kenneth Carroll, director of Athletic Bands and associate professor of Saxophone, will field 196 members, surpassing the previous enrollment record (set just two years ago in 2008) by nearly 20 students. According to Dr. Carroll, “The excitement within the ensemble is palpable; each day, all the students arrive early, work hard, and cheer for each other as they go about mastering our difficult musical and visual programs.” 

Both Dr. Carroll and Dr. Timothy Oliver, director of Bands, attribute this growth to numerous reasons. Student recruiting and retention are two of the main reasons. All of the instrumental music faculty members within the Department of Music have been working diligently to recruit and retain music students not just from Arkansas, but from all across the mid-south region (Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi) and beyond, including states such as New York and Nevada. In addition, recruiting initiatives fostered by interim chancellor Dr. Dan Howard have yielded opportunities to include international students in the marching band. This year, the SOUND is proud to include an outstanding artist from Japan within the band’s ranks.

Expanded opportunities on the Jonesboro campus for high school music students to attend and be a part of campus events also directly contributes to the increase in SOUND participation. The Department of Music regularly hosts thousands of students, parents, and music educators to campus for a variety of events. These events include the Arkansas Open Marching Contest, the ASBOA Region VIII Senior and Junior Band Clinics, the Mid-South Honor Band, the ASU Conducting Colloquium, and the Delta Jazz Workshop. This past February, ASU and Jonesboro High School were selected to host, for the first time ever, the auditions for the 2010 Arkansas All-State Ensembles. Outreach and service to the music education community are very important to the Department of Music, and these events are consistent with that philosophy.

Recently, ASU was selected as one of 60 elite institutions of higher education in the southern region recognized by the editors of U.S. News & World Report in the 2011 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.” The quality of the university as well as the quality and reputation of the Department of Music also contributed to the enrollment growth within the SOUND. Students regularly acknowledge the quality of the instrumental music faculty at Arkansas State, and they cite the presence of an artist faculty member teaching a specific wind and percussion instrument as a determining factor for choosing ASU. In addition, ensembles within the band program, such as the ASU Wind Ensemble, are recognized nationally by peer review processes for their artistic performances. Students in the band program not only have opportunities to support the Red Wolves football and basketball teams, but students also interact regularly with outstanding performers and innovative composers, and have the opportunity to premier and showcase a wide variety of music.

Dr. Oliver says, “The SOUND of the Natural State is among our university’s most visible academic classes and student groups.  Dr. Ken Carroll does an outstanding job teaching and inspiring these students. As director of Bands, I am proud of this ensemble and its positive impact on many different facets the university.” Dr. Carroll adds, “After almost three decades of directing marching bands at every level, working with the SOUND of the Natural State is a true labor of love. Each day is an exciting opportunity to work with talented artists – it is difficult not to be swept up in the enthusiasm as the musicians continue to represent Arkansas State University with pride and honor.”

Performances this season by the SOUND of the Natural State include all five home football games as well as exhibition performances at Charleston Marching Festival in Charleston, Mo., on Saturday, Oct. 9, the Redskin Classic in Pocahontas, on Saturday, Oct. 16, and the Arkansas Open in ASU Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30.

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