Crowd Energizers: The Panther Band is the lifeblood of a game day experience

In only nine seasons, the band has risen to be one of the nation’s finest
Writer: Christian Crittenden

The Georgia State Panther Band is one of the integral and more exciting parts of the game day experience. Whether it’s a football or basketball game, the Panther Band is always there cheering on the team. One thing for sure is that the Panther Band is always the loudest at the game, and that’s even without using their instruments.

“The mission of the Panther Band is to unite the spirit of Georgia State University through entertainment with excellence and energy. While providing a culture of respect and acceptance, we enrich the lives of our members and our GSU community,” according to the band’s website.

The marching band was formed in 2010, along with the university’s football team. The band was founded with the help of Dr. Chester Phillips, director of athletic bands, who is still leading the band along with the help of T. Devin Reid. In its inaugural season, the Panther Band started with around 150 students and has grown at a steady pace since then.

“The biggest challenge was getting students to buy into this vision without seeing it,” Phillips said. “We had a lot of people say, ‘Yeah, I’ll take a chance, I’ll do it,’ and we had a great time.”

Phillips was hired in 2009 to help plan everything that happens on the field during a game. Being a Georgia native, Phillips saw a prime opportunity to help form a band at a leading research university in Atlanta.

“For me on a personal level and a professional level, it was a remarkable opportunity,” Phillips said. “I’m a Georgia native, so for the opportunity to stay in the Atlanta area and a research institution, and have an opportunity to establish something out of nothing and build something here was a unique opportunity.”

Aside from performing at athletic events, the Panther Band has had several milestone events and has played at some awe-inspiring places.

In 2013, the band marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, performing a tune by Stevie Wonder during former President Barack Obama’s inauguration. The year after, the Panther Band took their marching prowess to the streets of New York to play in the 88th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The band has been ranked in the Top 5 in the southeast division by the College Band Directors National Association. Just three years after its inception, the band was already in the Top 10, according to the same association in 2013.

Those are remarkable accomplishments, especially from a band that started from scratch not long ago.

Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

“I think the biggest thing that I’m most proud of is literally the establishment of the group. That’s what I’m most proud of, in going from nothing to something that I see and think Panther fans see as an integral part of the game,” Phillips said.

Going forward, the band wants to improve on audience participation and help energize the fan base more during games. The band wants to become the cue for everyone to know that it’s time to get engaged start cheering. They definitely bring a show, but it’s also on the football team to win games, and it’s on the fans to participate in those games.

The band on its own is a spectacle to see, and the raw energy they bring helps elevate the teams to another level, and their efforts certainly don’t go unnoticed.

“That band of ours out there, they put on a show. They were at it all night long,” head football coach Shawn Elliott said after the team’s first game of the 2018 season.

Laney Hudson

Laney Hudson is one of the band’s four drum majors. She has been a drum major for three years and loves what she does. As a drum major, she is an extension of the band director, giving on-field instructions and ensuring the band is on the same page as its directors. One thing that Hudson has learned about herself is her student leadership abilities.

“I’ve learned a lot about student leadership here, especially because it’s hard to be over your peers,” Hudson said. “So I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate effectively and reach people. Sometimes it’s hard to reach college-aged students especially when you’re their peer.”

Hudson is a trumpet player by nature, and she began playing in middle school like most other musicians. The drum major came to Georgia State specifically to be a part of the marching band. She chose Georgia State because of her close relationship with Phillips, who is one of her mentors. Hudson is in her final year with the band, and she wants to continue into music education (her dream job is to become a band director).

Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Primrose Campbell

Primrose Campbell is a member of the color guard. She boasts a unique story, because she isn’t a traditional student. Campbell began performing with a color guard 10 years ago at Fayette County High School with the Tiger Band.

“It was my first year doing it and I didn’t think that I would like it at first,” Campbell said. “But we went on a trip to London that year and after that, I decided to continue with the sport and my love grew for it more and more.”

Campbell has done a mixture of fall, winter and summer guard throughout her career.

She was a student at Georgia State before the Panther Band was formed, and then she took a break from school. When she re-enrolled at Georgia State, seeing the newly-formed color guard motivated her to get back on the field to perform.

Now in her final year, Campbell is one of the group’s leaders because of the experience she has gained over her first two years in the guard.

“As the years grew on I understood a little bit more; I understood what they were asking, the quality that they want in the color guard,” Campbell said. “So with this being my third and last year, I’m on leadership because I’ve understood the leadership and the tradition that they want to keep and so I’m just trying to make sure that I push that forward.”

Campbell also teaches color guard to young kids outside of her duties at Georgia State. Once she graduates, she still has plans to continue performing and giving back to something that means a lot to her.

Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Beavan Zulu

Beaven Zulu is a sophomore trombone player and section leader in just his second year with the Panther Band. He has been playing the trombone since the sixth grade when he picked it out in band class and decided to give it a try.

Being a young leader can be tough and frequently has been at times for Zulu, but he has always seen himself as a leader. One thing that helps him along is remaining humble.

“It takes a lot of perseverance because with any instrument you play there are going to be a lot of downfalls where you feel like you suck,” Zulu said “But you just have to be persistent and keep on trying and never give up, and throughout time you will get better, and you will grow not only as a musician but as a person.”

Zulu grew up in the metro Atlanta area, and he would often visit Downtown Atlanta with his family. Those trips to the area inspired him to attend Georgia State and join the marching band.

The Panther Band is without a doubt one of the most energizing and irreplaceable parts of the game day experience. The band’s number one goal is to support the athletic teams and cheer them on no matter what, so they strive to bring a stream of energy to every play. The band is always ready to play the fight song after the team scores, but they have a way to balance the excitement of cheering and playing.

“You have to find a balance because usually there’s a good three seconds before they start counting off for the fight song,” Zulu said. “So they score a touchdown and you’re to scream for three seconds straight before you have to flip up that horn and start playing. You can honestly transfer the energy to other parts than just screaming when I play the fight song. My whole body is moving and I’m dancing along to the fight song.”

And what makes them even more loveable is the fact that of all their favorite memories, Georgia State beating Georgia Southern in Statesboro stands out the most—because who doesn’t enjoy beating Georgia Southern?

“Once you hit a critical mass of fan base then it becomes expected as a fan to do the cheers, so I think that’s the thrust of energy that’s what we’re going towards,” Phillips said.