Family affair

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 26, 2001

Daughter and father to perform

in Alumni Band at homecoming


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Rennie Mills offers a bit of advice to the individual who’ll serve as drum major for Troy State University’s alumni band on Saturday.

"(He) better get it started and stopped quickly," Mills said of the band’s traditional run onto the football field. "If not, there won’t be enough air on the field to play ‘Fanfare. "’

Joking aside, the 55-year-old Mills is one of more than 150 alumni expected to return for the traditional alumni band performance at halftime of the homecoming game against Southern Utah. It’s a performance Mills wouldn’t miss.

"I’ve attended every one since we formed the alumni band," he said proudly. "I even got into trouble one time when homecoming fell on my anniversary. I went to homecoming anyway."

Mills played trombone in the Sound of the South band from 1965 through 1970, training under the legendary Dr. John M. Long, retired director of bands for Troy State.

"I came down from (Robert E.) Lee in Montgomery with Dr. Long," Mills said. "He was my high school director and pretty much the reason I got a chance to go to college."

Long’s legacy remains a binding force for the alumni band. The year he retired, more than 500 alumni members ran onto the field for the band performance at halftime. "Talk about an awesome band Mills said. "We sounded so good because we’ve got so many people still playing."

Now, Director of Bands Ralph Ford is an active proponent of the alumni band, working to swell the ranks and the spirit of the men and women who marched with the Sound of the South. Saturday’s performance, Mills said, will be a tribute to both Long and Ford, whom he described as "the man it belongs to the man making it happen."

And, more than 30 years later, Mills’ daughter, Jennie, followed in his footsteps. As trumpet-player, she marched with the TSU Sound of the South for four years before sitting out this semester to perform her student-teaching internship. "My daughter will be in the alumni band for the first time this year," Mills said proudly.

But she’s not the only "family" in the band, he said. "We’re all family."

That sentiment is echoed by Dr. Peter Howard, a TSU professor who serves as president of alumni band chapter. "This is probably the closest-knit alumni group of the whole association," he said. "They know each other not just from their own years, but across the years."

In fact, Howard said, "it really is a family." He attributes that to "the spirit Dr. Long and everyone on the band staff instills in everyone."