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Sound of Today ready for showtime at halftime under new director Allen Parrish

Published Sept. 23, 2021

Allen Parrish story

Allen Parrish is the University of Louisiana Monroe’s new Director of Athletic Bands and an Assistant Professor in the School of Visual and Performing Arts. Parrish hopes to grow the Sound of Today Marching Band from 120 to 200 or more members.                                                            Siddharth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services


“If my people have to be out here, I want to be out here with them. I’m not standing in the shade.”

Allen Parrish, ULM Director of Athletic Bands

On being on the practice field with the Sound of Today Marching Band


By Mark Henderson

Special to the University of Louisiana Monroe

It’s 97 in the shade. It feels like 108 degrees. But there is no shade to be found on the ULM Sound of Today Marching Band practice field. The heat takes its toll on an early September afternoon.

Crisscrossing the field, a man in a sports cap and ULM shirt guides the musicians through precision routines. That’s Allen Parrish, D.M.A., the new Director of Athletic Bands and Assistant Professor in the University of Louisiana Monroe School of Visual and Performing Arts.

“If my people have to be out here, I want to be out here with them. I’m not standing in the shade,” said Parrish.

The band takes regular water breaks, and Parrish frequently reminds his musicians, “You are so much more important than a hole in a line. Take care of yourselves.”

Break over, the musicians return to the practice field, take their positions, and go again. It’s a good performance, and Parrish has the band move to its next set.

The practices in the sweltering summer heat pay off.

Allen Parrish

The Sound of Today was in tune and in step for the 8-minute halftime show during at the Warhawks first home game – a win over visiting Jackson State.

Parrish says his musicians are ready for the second home game, Saturday at 7 p.m. when the Troy Trojans come calling. The SOT second halftime show features Latin Pop.

Parrish admits to pushing the band with new music and new moves – and he likes what he sees.

“The strength of this band is in its hard work ethic and its desire to be better,” he said.

Parrish earned his doctorate of musical arts at Southern Mississippi University. Before joining ULM, Parrish taught low brass classes at a community college.

He was hired by ULM in March and has been on campus since June. Parrish had time to think about what he wanted to bring to the band even before officially taking the reins of the Sound of Today on Aug. 9.

“The music comes first. And you should have music that the audience will enjoy. The students told me they wanted something to tie all the music together,” Parrish said.

At the same time, the music has to be something to which the band can march.

“It’s perhaps the hardest music they’ve ever played,” Parrish said. “At the same time, many of the students are telling me it’s the best time they ever had because they are challenged.”

ULM’s Instrumental music majors march in the band as part of their scholarship requirements. Of the nearly 120 players in the group, however, 70 to 80 percent are non-music majors.

Participating non-majors are eligible for scholarships and grants. They also can earn up to two credits.

“We have a lot of strong players in each section,” Parrish said. “I’m relying on juniors and seniors, and my section leaders, to work with the freshmen to get them up to speed.”

Parrish has a three-to-four-year plan to give the band a bigger sound, with a goal of more than 200 players in the next few years.

He intends to create a quality product people will want to join, make use of out-of-state tuition waivers to attract high school musicians from Arkansas, spend time in high schools recruiting talent, and invite students to the ULM campus.