It may be a love of music that draws students to The Sound of the South Marching at Troy University, but it’s the bonds formed during countless hours of practice and performance that keep the band’s alumni coming back year after year to perform at the Alumni Band.
Former Voice of the South members took to the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday in what has become, for many alumni of the bands, an annual tradition.
“I continue to be involved and serve the Alumni squad because, first, it’s a great way to keep in touch with old friends and colleagues,” said Lauren Smith Chandler, senior specialist from 2005-2008 and leader in 2007 and 2008. Being part of a great organization that gives back to students. When I was an active member of SOTS, I received the Alumni Squad Scholarship, I was so grateful for that and I know there was a group of people working very hard to offer me that scholarship at that time. I view this as my opportunity to keep the scholarship, communications and the Trojan spirit alive.”
Stephanie Milam Martinez, who flew from Louisiana to pitch on Saturday, was in the band from 1989 to 1993, playing the flute and also piccolo during her time with Southern Voice. After 1993, she became a spectator, seeing her first husband, Jeff Koslan, perform with the band and earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“Being a part of this program has enriched my life beyond my ability to imagine and explain,” Martinez said. “I will forever have that knot in my throat, my trembling chin, weeping eyes and my heart throbbing when I think of the many blessings I still receive only from the first best decision I made as an adult to start my future by applying to Troy University and subscribing to Southern Voice. I love Troy. ,University, SOTS, Thousands of friendships made, and most of all, we are the members who met and got married. Despite being divorced, my sons are another link to my journey in TROY SOTS and are my greatest accomplishments.”
Martinez is proud to be active in the Troy University Alumni Chapter.
“I don’t pay alumni fees just to play in the alumni band,” she said. “It is such an honor to be a member of TUBA, and I pray before my life is over I can donate something so memorable financially because my love, respect and appreciation for her cause is so worth it to me. I am surrounded by friends from LSU, University of Louisiana, University of Louisiana Monroe, University of New Orleans , but I assure you they all know and respect my love for TROY.”
Tim Sims came to TROY and joined The Sound of the South in 1985, playing pop. He served as division captain in 1986 and was division captain in 1987.
Dr. Sims said, “Johnny Long taught us you spell FUN.” I think music is the bond that holds us all together. And when you share with the Alumni Band, whether you’re 54 or 24, you can still take out your instrument and play it. Or, you can be part of an assistant (color keeper, big group or line dancer). “
Dawn Railey was a member of the Sound of the South from 1976 until 1980. To Riley, joining the band seemed like fate had come true.
“I was due to be in SOTS because I grew up next to Dr. Long and his family,” she said. “His daughter, Deborah Lynn, taught me about color guarding. One of his favorite stories he told at the beginning of band camp, which bothered me the most, was how Deborah Lynn and I were walking up and down Homewood Street with our dogs.”
Riley said that she formed bonds during her time in the band that are just as strong today.
“Many of the friends I made at that time are still my best friends to this day,” she said. “There’s a connection about being in this band that goes beyond years. When my niece Alison was in first grade to dance – she called me after her first rehearsal. She told me she finally understood what we meant when we talked about the fuss. Hearing her from the stands is one thing, but standing right in front of 300 musicians is one thing.” Quite another. I can’t imagine not having that experience.”
“The Voice of the South” has become part of the family tradition within the Riley family. Six other family members followed Riley in the Voice of the South costume: Tim Pierce, Melanie Riley Pierce, Alison Riley, Matthew Pierce, Megan Pierce Sanders and Kada Riley.
“I’ve always loved being part of this band,” Riley said.