NATCHITOCHES – Jeff Mathews feels he is up to the challenge. Mathews will lead his first performance as director of bands at Northwestern State University Saturday when the Demons take on Southern University at 6 p.m. in Turpin Stadium. He replaces Bill Brent, who over 30 years built Northwestern State’s band into one of the nation’s top college marching bands.
“Following Mr. Brent is like following Bear Bryant at Alabama,” said Mathews. “Things have been much the same. I am involved in some meetings I wasn’t part of, but I came into the job well prepared. I’ve been following Mr. Brent around for 15 years. We’ve developed a professional relationship and a system for having a successful collegiate marching band. Now I am slipping into the driver’s seat.”
Mathews, a Northwestern State alumnus, has been has been at NSU since 1998 as associate director of bands/associate professor of music, director of student activities and organizations and director of athletic bands/assistant professor of music.
He takes over a marching band which was a finalist for the 2011 Sudler Trophy, an award to identify and recognize collegiate marching bands of particular excellence that have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life. NSU’s band participated in the 2011 New Year’s Day Parade and Festival in London. Northwestern State’s band was named one of the top eight in the country by the Web site collegeotr.com in 2008.
Saturday’s performance is a soul divas show featuring the music of Aretha Franklin, Labelle and ending with a tribute to Adele.
“It will be a high energy show that will be a lot of fun,” said Mathews. “The band is working hard and playing well. Rehearsals have been great.
Performing at halftime after Southern University’s “Human Jukebox,” has motivated the Spirit of Northwestern during preseason practice.
“I told the band I am 46, but I am still competitive,” said Mathews. “Southern has an outstanding band, but we always want to perform well when another band is there. Musicians can be as competitive as athletes.”
This season’s shows include a performance with high school honor bands and choirs on Sept. 28, a salute to veterans on Nov. 9 and a tribute to the Who. Northwestern State will host high school bands from Louisiana and Texas at the annual Northwestern Marching Contest on Oct. 26.