The SEC Student Music Ensemble provided the soundtrack for two events at the 2017 SEC Football Championship in Atlanta for the second time in program history.
The ensemble performed at the SEC Legends Dinner on Friday night and SEC Pregame Hospitality Party on Saturday of championship weekend.
The six-musician group included Erik Alvar from the University of Florida on bass, Kirby Davis from the University of Kentucky on tenor saxophone, Ben Keith from Auburn University on trombone, Lazarrus Miller from the University of Mississippi on piano, Xavier Scaife from Auburn on drums and Mason Soudelier from LSU on alto saxophone. David D’Angelo from the University of Georgia and Michael Pendowski from Auburn University directed the group.
Student musicians valued the opportunity for the musical experience it gave them. “It means a lot to be selected for the SEC Student Music Ensemble. Not many student musicians are able to say that they have done something of such a high caliber," Scaife said.
One of the challenges for the ensemble was the improvised nature of the performances. The musicians and directors met for the first time on Friday afternoon of championship weekend and had a couple of hours to rehearse before their first performance that night. Although the students received music sheets in advance, they were pushed to sync their talents before the SEC Legends Dinner’s reception that evening.
“Jazz music is a unique and versatile genre,” Miller said. “Depending on the composer’s wishes, the possibilities are endless with what you can implement and transfigure.”
The group provided entertainment during the pre-dinner reception and during the dinner on Friday. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey individually recognized the students and directors for their efforts following the performances.
Saturday’s performance was more casual as the ensemble played for SEC Pregame Hospitality Party guests prior to the 2017 SEC Football Championship. Afterwards, the group participated in the pregame festivities before attending the first football championship game played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Students said they valued the experience for the interactions it provided. "Being able to mingle with fellow musicians from other states guarantees a good time. I experienced a vibe of prosperity that I would like to obtain for the rest of my life," Scaife said.
The success of the music performances at the last two championship weekends has lead to preparations for the 2018 SEC Championship.