Jackson State’s Sonic Boom Marching Band shines at Super Bowl halftime show

Published 11:22 pm Sunday, February 11, 2024

By Rachel James-Terry
Jackson State University Communications

LAS VEGAS — Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band took a turn in the Super Bowl spotlight on Sunday.

The Boom made a special appearance with eight-time Grammy-winning artist Usher during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show during the NFL’s championship game in Las Vegas.

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The Boom showed television viewers and football fans in Allegiant Stadium why they are known as the “Summa Cum Laude of Bands,” making the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In addition to Usher, the halftime show featured performances by Alicia Keys, H.E.R., Jermaine Dupri, Lil Jon and Ludacris.

HBCU marching bands have a long history of performing at the Super Bowl — Grambling has done it six times, Southern University three and Prairie View A&M once — but this was Jackson State’s first appearance.

“It feels surreal. It’s not every day you are invited to participate in such a monumental moment. The reality of the situation did not hit us until we began rehearsals in Vegas,” said Roderick Little, Ph.D., director of bands at JSU. “I cannot think of anything more exciting or rewarding than walking onto the field, hearing the roar of the Super Bowl crowd, and immersing ourselves in the spirit that Usher brought to his performance.”

Little said he was met with jaw-drops and wide-eyed faces when he informed the band students that they would participate in the halftime show.

“They deserve this adventure and have worked hard to be here,” Little said. “I am also proud that I could fulfill two of my strategic goals for our band program — provide life-changing experiences for our students and place our program on one of the most visible national stages in this country. It does not get any bigger than the Super Bowl.”

The band’s appearance at the Super Bowl started with a conversation between JSU alum Cortez Bryant and his friend Jesse Collins, the executive producer of the halftime show.

“He hit me and asked if I knew of any HBCU bands. Of course, Jackson State’s Sonic Boom is the best band in the land. Without a doubt, they were going to receive my recommendation,” said Bryant, also a Sonic Boom alum and Co-CEO of Blueprint Group/Maverick.

The rest is Jackson State history.

The Sonic Boom set the stage for Jackson State University to continue to elevate the institution by highlighting the campus culture and student experience. President Marcus L. Thompson, Ph.D., says the performance reiterates the institution’s reputation as a global research institution where students excel in and out of the classroom.

“I am extremely proud of our students’ performance tonight with Usher, and the precision and musicality they brought to one of America’s biggest celebrations of sport was unparalleled,” Thompson said.

“When you realize that these student artists hail from various parts of the country and are studying a variety of majors, including biology, political science, and communications, you can appreciate the level of hard work and perseverance that went into this show,” Thompson added. “Special thanks to Roc Nation and the NFL for making this historic moment possible.”