Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom Super Bowl Performance

Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom Super Bowl Performance

Earlier this year, Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band received a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to participate in the Super Bowl, the most-watched television broadcast in America. A historic 123.7 million viewers tuned in to watch Super Bowl 58, which now marks the broadcast as the most-viewed event in United States television history. Not only did the Sonic Boom have the opportunity to perform on the country’s largest stage, but they were also accompanied by world-renowned, eight-time Grammy-winning artist and R&B icon, Usher.

The man spearheading the powerhouse program that is the JSU Marching Band, Dr. Roderick Little, is a graduate of Jackson State University. He is also a past participant in several of the university’s ensembles, including student arranger for the Sonic Boom and student conductor of the Symphonic Band. He has spent his career in Jackson, Mississippi, giving back to the programs that poured into him. He launched a teaching career at his high school alma mater Lanier High School, then in 2012, returned to join the staff at JSU.

“It is surreal and an utter blessing to serve my students and alma mater in this capacity. Most students have dreams of coming back to work at their previous institutions and I get to say that I can do that- it’s not taken lightly at all and I view it as a personal assignment,” Little said.

Along with Dr. Little’s responsibility as Director of Bands, he also designs all of the drill for the Sonic Boom’s famous performances. He is one of the first directors at Jackson State to implement technology into his design and teaching practices. He wrote drill by hand for quite some time, then decided to progress to a more advanced approach and started exploring Pyware 3D. After taking some time to learn the software, he decided to invest in program and has been an avid user ever since. From Dr. Little’s vision, transferred to Pyware, and relayed to the talented performers of the Sonic Boom — every performance from this band is a masterpiece and one to remember.

“My experience with Pyware has been a great one. It took me a while to adapt and move from the ‘old school’ approach of writing drill by hand, but I took one summer to learn the software and I haven’t looked back,” said Little.


As a military-style band director, the Traditional Tools plug-in within Pyware proves most helpful for Dr. Little in his design process. Several features in this plug-in allows the user to create specific military marching maneuvers effortlessly — the “Sequential Push Tool,” for creating step offs and drop offs, the “Counter March Tool,” for creating countermarches, the “Parade Gate Tool,” used to create wide, sweeping movements, and ultimately, the “Traditional Tool,” used to create multiple maneuvers and combine them over the course a single transition.

“I mostly use the traditional tools when designing drills because we adopted the Bill Moffit or Albert Richard Casavant style of drills,” Little said. “The software, overall, allows me to put my thoughts into visual action to help save time during my rehearsals.”

Dr. Little is, foremost, an educator, and there is no better teaching tool for students to learn drill than the UDBapp. Our collaborators at Ultimate Drill Book have built the premier app for designers and directors to simply export the drill created in Pyware to the UDBapp for students to learn on their mobile devices. The app allows for easy-to-understand coordinate and pathway instructions. After Dr. Little wrote the show design for the Superbowl performance in Pyware, he exported that drill to the UDBapp, and performers were able to learn their specific routes right from their phone.



The performers of the JSU Sonic Boom, who come from a long history of excellent performances, worked hard to pull off a literal “booming” show at the most-watched Superbowl to date. The leader of the show, Dr. Little, could not be more thrilled with the showmanship of Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band.

“I am extremely proud of them, but that’s not out of the norm because I am constantly proud of their efforts and accomplishments. I’m more so proud that they had the once and a lifetime experience to participate in the Super Bowl!”

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