MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Southern Heritage Classic between Jackson State and Tennessee State is two days away, but you can’t have HBCU football without the bands.
When it comes to HBCU football, fans are just as excited about the bands in the stands as they are about the action on the field. Make no mistake, JSU and TSU’s bands are not the only ones vying for the best band in the land this weekend.
Thursday afternoon, the Whitehaven High School band was busy preparing not just for Friday night, but Saturday morning.
"You hear them bass drums going, them cymbals crashing, swirling. Them tubas hitting. It’s like it’s a full experience," said band director Kellen Christian.
On Saturday, some of the best high school bands in the region will descend upon Memphis. The high school and college Battle of the Bands is just another charm of the Southern Heritage Classic.
"Growing up in Chicago, Illinois I remember watching the Southern Heritage Classic on BET in the 90s and going “Wow,” and now to actually be a part of the event process is a very gracious and humbling experience," Christian said.
Whitehaven High will host the eight competing bands hailing from Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi. As the hosts, the Tigers can’t compete themselves, but the “Sounds of Perfection Band” are still excited to show what makes them so perfect.
"Sounds of Perfection, I mean people look at the name itself. Sounds of Perfection, they're like, “OK, what you got? How perfect are you all?” Christian said.
"Even though we’re not playing it’s still fun, it’s real cool to showcase what we’ve been working on from band camp and during the summer and throughout the year," said senior snare drummer Ingram Veasley.
For some band members, being a part of the experience goes back generations. Junior piccolo Emmarie McDonald's older cousins are former members of the Sounds of Perfection.
"I want to see it grow and continue to flourish as it did before me and the people before me, I know they paved the way for me and they put a lot into the program," McDonald said.
With the prestigious reputation of Whitehaven's band and the attention of the Southern Heritage Classic coming to Memphis, it's a chance to show the old school that the new school is just as capable of holding it down in the stands and on the field.
"You've got the alumni coming back and you want to make sure that your year is just as good as the years before," Veasley said.
It’s also a chance to see for high schoolers to see big time HBCU bands up close and see themselves on the next level.
"I’m very excited about Jackson State because we mostly copy our moves from them and we play a lot of their songs," said senior drum major Xavier Dingba.
The high school battle of the bands comes to Whitehaven High at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The winner performs pregame for the Southern Heritage Classic. Tickets are on sale at Eventbrite.