Pride Of Acadiana Marching Band
09/07/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Jason Missal Leads UL Marching BandBy Shanna P. Dickens / Photos by Fusion Photography
Music is the universal language. The great unifier, knowing no bounds and transcending all barriers. Such is why Jason Missal, who was born in Oklahoma and studied all over the U.S., can land in Acadiana as the Associate Director of Bands at UL and lead the Pride of Acadiana Marching Band to fire up a crowd of Ragin’ Cajuns fans as if he’d lived here his entire life.
Missal has a long history of music, a legacy in fact. On his father’s side, he is a third generation band director. His maternal grandfather was an administrator at a school of music. When he was in 6th grade, Missal began playing the French horn in the band. Two short years later, he decided music would be the career he pursued. This decision led him to study at Oklahoma State University, then to get his masters from the University of Colorado. He taught collegiate band at Abilene Christian University in Texas for four years before completing his doctorate at the University of Texas. In 2017…he arrived in Lafayette.
“I love the Lafayette community,” Missal says enthusiastically. “I love how friendly everyone is. The people I get to work with at UL have been fantastic. Everyone works together to make everything that we do rewarding for the students.”
On the field the student drum majors, aside from when Missal leads the National Anthem and the Alma Mater, do most of the conducting. Off of the field is when the Associate Director duties really come into play, like rearranging pieces of popular music to marching band format and field designing field formations. Missal also serves as the leader of the concert band, Symphonic Winds, and teaches conducting courses.
“I think of the band as the heartbeat of the spirit of the university,” he explains. “We basically manifest the spirit in terms of entertaining the crowd through a diverse array of music. We want to keep the crowd involved and keep everyone energized and excited. We also want to fire up the team. It’s our job to build that momentum.”
During band camp, percussive beats can be heard faintly all across town – the harbinger of a rapidly approaching football season. Behind those drumming sounds is the Pride of Acadiana practicing formations under the sweltering Louisiana sun. During band camp, they work from 9 am – 9 pm for an entire week. Once school starts, rehearsals are held three times a week from 12:15-2:15 pm. Yes, the hottest time of the day during the hottest time of the year. The hard work doesn’t end there.
“On game days, we’re involved about 5 ½ hours before kickoff until after the game has finished,” Missal relates. “So that’s a full day for us. It’s really hard work, but the sense of togetherness and community, the enjoyment of the music and the spirit of UL sports keeps us motivated and enjoying every second of it.”
Anyone who has tailgated at a UL football game is well acquainted with the Ragin’ March, where the band leads the team to the stadium. Missal encourages fans not only to enjoy the march as they pass by, but also to follow them to the stadium. For the band, the Ragin’ March leads to the area right outside of Cajunfield where they perform their pregame concert. As Missal explains, this performance helps to set the tone for what will develop inside of the stadium. Missal is excited to build on the excitement surrounding new coach Billy Napier and has several stirring performances planned for the crowd’s enjoyment. There will be a special Cajun show in honor of Festival Acadiens et Creole during UL’s homecoming game, a Queen show in honor of the anticipated Freddy Mercury documentary to be released this fall and a special Veteran’s Day Show.
It may be the band’s job to keep the momentum up for the Ragin’ Cajuns and their fans, but it’s Missal’s job to be there for each member of the Pride of Acadiana.
“I’m passionate about music and about helping band students,” he expresses. “I want them to be the best musicians they can possibly be and grow as people. They’re a team – they look out for one another. It’s important to me that people are excited about their presence at the football games.”