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SU Marching Band's drumline headed to Morocco - Thursday, January 20, 2011
Southern University Marching Band's drumline will soon be on its way to captivate audiences in the North African countries of Morocco and Algeria.

Fourteen members of the famous "Human Jukebox" band will be performing in theaters, a children's center, sporting events, a morning television show and conducting workshops for young drummers, while touring cities in the two countries.

"It seems so unreal. I mean really unreal. It probably won't hit me that we're actually going to Africa until we take off," said Stanley Reed, a junior biology major and bass drummer from Thibodaux.

The Jaguar band's trip comes at the invitation of the U.S. State Department through its Performing Arts Initiative. The band members leave January 25 and will return February 5. They will be accompanied by director of bands Lawrence Jackson and two band administrators.

In a letter to Jackson, the U.S. Consulate in Morocco said the "Performing Arts Initiative provides financial support to U.S. Embassies for presentations of American performing art and artists. They are an important way to foster goodwill, engage foreign audiences and provide insight into American culture and values. . ." 

The consulate's letter also said, "as one of the top collegiate bands in the United States, the Southern University Marching Band is the perfect choice to represent the U.S. in Morocco and Algeria."

Jackson said a representative of the U.S. Consulate said they saw a few SU band performances on the Internet and were so taken that they decided to request the SU drumline.

"This is such a great honor to be selected to go to Africa," Jackson said. "I hope it opens doors for us. This is good for Southern University, the state, and the nation."

While in Morocco, the drumline will be performing in Casablanca, Marrakesh, and the capital city of Rabat. In Algeria, the band will play for a Boy Scouts group in Sidi Fredi, be guests on "Good Morning Algeria" television and play at the Bentalha Children's Center.

The international travel will be "an awesome" experience for the students, said Jackson, adding that only one of the 14 band members has traveled abroad.

Justin Ward, an accounting major from Houma, said his family "is so excited about me going on this trip."  Ward, who has traveled  across the country with the SU band, said he and his mother used to have a competition about who would travel to more places in the U.S. "But once I found out I was going to Africa, she gave up the competition," said Ward, laughing.

Ward, who plays the snare drums, also said he will be taking as many photos as he can on the trip. "I'm taking these pictures for the other members of the band and for all of the people that I know who may not get a chance to take a trip like this in their lifetimes."

Reed, who is Ward's roommate on campus, said there is no jealousy among other band members who won't be going on the trip. "We're like a family. They are happy for us," he said.

Both Reed and Ward said they want to get out among the people in Morocco and Algeria to experience the different cultures. "I want to experience life as they see it," Reed said.

Jackson said the request for the Human Jukebox to perform came during the 2010 football season. "Of course we were excited," he said. "They thought that the people would enjoy our performance because the percussion sections over there are the focal point of their bands," he said, adding with laughter, "no drumline can match our performance."