JACKSON, Mississippi – Two first-generation Jackson State University students are making history as the first Hispanic students in their respective performing sections of the Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band. JSU senior Marvin Garcia Meda is the first Hispanic head drum major for the Boom, and sophomore Priscilla Marin is the first Hispanic performer of the Prancing J-Settes. Both are excited to take their talents down to Miami, Florida to perform during the Orange Blossom Classic weekend.
A strong passion for dance led Marin to the campus of Jackson State. The social work major said that when she discovered the art of majorette-style dancing, she knew she would attend an HBCU.
“I joined community majorette dance teams and they exposed me to the world of HBCU dance. So, when I entered my senior year in high school, I was like I need to go to an HBCU,” Marin shared. “I started studying the different styles of HBCU dance. I kept learning and the J-Settes are the reason I came to Jackson State University.”
Director of the Prancing J-Settes Chloe Crowley said the timing of Marin joining the team could not have been better.
“Ironically, Priscilla made her debut during our 50th year in existence, which not only speaks to the exposure and popularity of our band program, but to the inclusivity of our University as well,” said Crowley.
A Dallas native, Marin joined her high school dance team in the ninth grade and was praised by her coaches. She spent countless hours watching majorette performances on YouTube to further enhance her craft. As the end of her high school years approached, she began networking with HBCU dance coaches.
For Marin, dance is more than a hobby. She described it as an outlet and a way for her to connect with people.
“I’m able to share a passion with people and be exposed to so many people with different backgrounds, disabilities, language barriers, ages, ethnicities and more. It’s a way for me to be around various people who share the same passion,” said Marin.
In her academic life, Marin immediately immersed herself into University culture on and off the field. She is a member of the Student Social Work Advisory Council and the Latasha Norman Peer Educator Group.
“She’s a hard worker, very creative and passionate about everything she participates in, not just band or J-Settes but with her work and the community service she does around campus also,” Crowley said.
Marin has big career aspirations and plans to infuse dance with social work. Inspired by the challenges of her upbringing, she wants to dedicate her life to serving the underprivileged and prides herself on being a self-motivator.
“I felt like it was kind of my purpose to help other people find their purpose in life because I feel like I lost my way a lot, and I was the only one who really had me,” revealed Marin. “I didn’t have a good support system anywhere, so because I was good at understanding myself and my situations, I feel like I can help other people understand their own through my experiences and the experiences of other people I talk to.”
The Dallas native plans to start a community outreach program to serve those in need. In the near future, Marin said she wants to create a safe space for dancers of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds so they can enjoy their passion in a judgement-free zone.
Marin shared that she has formed a sisterhood with the other J-Settes, and the Sonic Boom feels like one big family.
“I was nervous at first because I understand that I’m the first Hispanic, and this is a safe space for Black people at an HBCU. I felt like maybe I was kind of taking something away, but after being surrounded by so many good people, it made me feel like I wasn’t any different,” Marin explained.
Crowley credited Marin for having a bright and cheerful personality.
“I often call her the cheerleader of the squad because she’s always constantly motivating her teammates behind the scenes, much like the fans at our performances,” said Crowley.
As a first-generation college student, Marin wants to leave a legacy for other aspiring dancers and use her talents and education to “save the world.”
“Let your passion lead you. Especially in this time of social media, when it’s so easy to get caught in what people have to say. When it comes to negative things, I feel like it’s so important to always remember why you wanted to be where you are in the first place.”
Head Drum Major Marvin Meda has swagger
JSU senior Marvin Garcia Meda continues to make Sonic Boom of the South Marching Band history. As a sophomore, he became the first Hispanic student to hold a highly-coveted position as a member of J5; the Boom’s distinguished drum major squad.
The drum majors are known for their high-energy performances and iconic marching style. The biology pre-med major understands the weight of his accomplishment.
“I feel honored. It’s a pleasure to be in front of all my peers, in front of everybody that acknowledges me as their head drum major,” Meda shared.
Amidst all the excitement of achieving a lifelong dream, Meda said his position thrust him into the spotlight as a role model.
“I’m just trying to inspire other people to be the best that they can be in life and everything that they do,” said Meda.
Director of Bands Roderick Little, Ph.D., described Meda as a dedicated showman with an eagerness to learn yet, remains shrouded in humility. Little credits the drum major’s unique “swagger” and ambition for his progression in the Boom.
“Marvin is a first-generation college student and didn’t really have a template or guide on what college attainment and completion looked like,” said Little, who is also a professor of music. “However, he has proven to work against those odds through personal initiative and guidance from several mentors and teachers. His future is bright once he graduates from JSU.”
Meda said he’s been preparing for the challenges of being the next head drum major and is confident that he will live up to the reputation of the leaders before him.
“We’ve had amazing head drum majors back in the day and I got to top that,” Meda declared.
The Dallas native said fans should expect some surprises this year as he works to revolutionize the J5 style. Little expressed complete confidence in Meda’s ability to lead the Boom in another year of excellence.
“He’s vested in assisting the band program in any way necessary to ensure its legacy continues to grow,” Little said.
Meda and his twin brother, Kevin Garcia Meda, were raised by his mother Bianca Qieves Meda who emigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala in the 90s. It wasn’t until he became a drum major in Skyline High School that he learned about HBCUs and was exposed to the Sonic Boom’s performance style.
Following his acceptance to JSU, Meda shared that he initially was weary about fitting in. Today, he appreciates the relationships he’s developed with his classmates, professors, and fellow band members.
“Everything was loving and open here, and it felt like home. I felt like this was my second home, and I really appreciate Jackson State for giving me the HBCU experience,” explained Meda.
He said he wants to make his family proud, and he will be forever grateful for their sacrifices that afforded him this opportunity. Although his mother and brother have not attended a performance, Meda says they watch online and are his biggest supporters. His biggest wish is for his family to be able to attend a game and see him in action as head drum major for the Sonic Boom of the South.
“My twin brother wanted to come here and play the mellophone for JSU and be a part of their section, but sadly, he couldn’t. He sacrificed himself to stay with our mother and help her out as best as he can,” said Meda. “He gave me the opportunity to come here and I thank my brother for doing that.”
The Sonic Boom of the South will perform at the Orange Blossom Classic Battle of the Bands in Miami on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Watsco Center, located at 1245 Dauer Drive, Miami, FL 33146. On Sunday, Sept. 4, the band will perform during halftime of the Orange Blossom Classic Football Game at Hard Rock Stadium. For more information, visit https://www.orangeblossomclassic.com/
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