Exploring Alabama - Alabama State's Boot Camp

ASU's drum line rehearses
ASU's drum line rehearses

Boot camp--two words that strike fear in the hearts of young recruits. Did you know there's a camp of a different sort right here in Montgomery? I dropped by one afternoon recently to take a look. It's easy to spot the new recruits: combat boots, fatigues and white tee shirts.

Their drill sergeant is never far away. A high-ranking officer demands silence. "No talking when I'm teaching," he says sternly. Seconds later you can hear a pin drop in the rehearsal hall. It's not Parris Island and these aren't marines.

The recruits are in the hornet's nest. Welcome to Alabama State University's freshman band camp--a grueling and tiring stretch of 21 days that start early and end late. These freshmen recruits from across the country want to play for a new commanding officer, James Oliver, Band Director at ASU.

Oliver's mission is to get the troops ready for the first battle of the year. "We have to mold them into the style that we have here at Alabama State," said Oliver.

There are horns big and small, saxophones, flutes, clarinets, and piccolos, too. But, the drum line is the heartbeat of this freshman class. Just like the movie "Drum Line" these elite players have a little attitude.

Jarvis Carlisle of Montgomery hopes to win a spot on the drum line at ASU. He understands all about that drum line attitude. "When they want to be good...when they want to have the best...that's when the attitude comes in," he says.

Drum line section leader Mike Jenkins won't settle for anything less than perfect. "In three weeks we have to have a show prepared that's perfect...100% perfect, for the show in Detroit against Howard University," Jenkins said with a confident smile.

16-hour days push the recruits toward perfection. For the freshmen who make the cut and the upper classmen who join them after the first week, it's more than music. It's tradition and pride.

Oliver says, "When we get standing ovations and people come down and say they enjoy it, that's our reward. So that's what we live for while we're here during this time of the year."

Once boot camp is over and the most talented freshmen are selected when they "shake the tree", General Oliver will send more than 200 troops into battle in Detroit on September 4th against long time foe, Howard University.

Chances are, they'll blow Howard off the field!

Reporter: Bob Howell