For the first time since 1990 and the fourth time in its history, Southern University’s “Human Jukebox” Marching Band will display its talents before a Super Bowl crowd Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The nationally renowned band will perform a 6-minute, three-song performance accompanied by the Dancing Dolls dance team during pregame festivities before the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers square off in Super Bowl XLVII.
The band will cap its performance with a second-line parade off the field.
The pregame ceremony will also feature survivors from the Sandy Hook school shooting singing “America The Beautiful” following team introductions and Alicia Keys singing the national anthem.
The Dancing Dolls performed with Madonna for last year’s halftime show, but it has been more than 20 years since the entire band performed in the big game.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students Director of Bands Lawrence Jackson said Wednesday night as the band was rehearsing. He said he’s confident they will rise to the occasion.
“It’s not just good for the university or the city of Baton Rouge, it’s an opportunity to showcase the talent from the state of Louisiana,” Jackson said. “We can showcase to the world that the state of Louisiana has a wealth of talent.”
Jackson boasted that the band can put together a show from scratch in three days. The band has had nearly 21/2 weeks to practice for Sunday’s big game, rigorously working on details that distinguish an exceptional marching band from a great one — such as making sure the lines of the “V” in “XLVII” are crisp and sharp, with no curves.
The NFL requires the band to spell out XLVII, NFL and NOLA in its performance.
Jackson said he is confident in his band’s ability to execute whatever task he sets before them, musically and visually.
“There is no business like show business and we’re up to the task,” Jackson said. “They’re like a racehorse ready to go.”
Katrina North, 23, a senior piccolo player from Houma, said the band is taking a “business as usual” approach toward the biggest performance of their young lives.
“We’re treating it like any other game. Even though we’re doing pregame, even though it’s only six minutes, we know it has to be perfect,” North said.
She said she feels the professional demeanor the band brings to each show helped sway the committee’s decision to choose them.
“It’s a very humbling experience. They could have chose any band, any band,” North said. “We basically prepared to be chosen as far as doing our halftime shows, taking it seriously, because we knew we were being watched.”
In the week leading up this year’s Bayou Classic, officials from the NFL Office in New York reached out to Jackson via email to gauge his interest in performing at the Super Bowl.
Jackson said some NFL officials watched the band perform previously and were impressed by the band’s overall execution and performance.
Jackson, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern, said he submitted a video from a 2008 performance at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“The footage confirmed their excitement and they were locked onto us,” Jackson said.
He did not tell the students right away, holding on to that information in case the deal fell through. Once their performance was set in stone and contracts were signed, Jackson asked school spokesman Edward Pratt to put a message on the school’s website since the confirmation came during the Christmas holiday break for students.
The students were jubilant to be chosen.
Alexander Riggins, 22, a senior percussionist and Tanesha Smith, 21, a senior clarinet player, both from Houston, said they learned about the Super Bowl invitation from the message on the school’s website.
“I saw it, I refreshed the page, I closed out the window browser and brought it back up just to make sure that it was legit 100 percent and that nobody was playing with me. Then I started dancing around the house,” Riggins said.
Smith said she was checking her financial aid status on the website when she saw the news.
“I looked at it and I tapped the person next to me, ‘So we going to the Super Bowl?’ and she said ‘Yeah!,’ ”Smith said.
Jackson said he gathered the band together on the second day back from holiday break to officially inform them of the invitation.
“It was one whale of a meeting. Everyone was bright-eyed and they were excited, clapping, screaming and hollering,” Jackson said. “They knew that it was a huge honor and they were very grateful.”
The shock soon subsided and they got back into the routine of practicing the playlist Jackson selected for the show.
Jackson said he chose music to amp the crowd up and get their adrenaline pumping.
The six-minute long performance will kick off with “The Boss” by Diana Ross followed by “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars, before the show ends in true New Orleans style with the Rebirth Brass Band’s “Do Whatcha Wanna” while the band does a second line off the field.
The Dancing Dolls will also perform during the show wearing what Jackson described as trademark Beyoncé outfits that are “eye-popping.”
The captain of the Dancing Dolls, Seaera Cole, who was already in New Orleans practicing this week, will also be performing with Beyoncé during the halftime show.
Dancing Dolls co-captain Casey Greggs, 21, from Baton Rouge, said Cole will be towards the front and in the middle of the dance fprmation during Beyoncé the show.
“She said she’s loving it and she’s having so much fun,” Greggs said. “This is literally her dream. She wants to dance until she’s 150.”