Contestants create "fight song" lyrics

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Jeremy Boyer knows Southeast Missouri State University's fight song by heart. But until now he's been hard pressed to sing it.

That's because the song, played at university sporting events, has no words.

But thanks to Boyer and three other would-be songwriters who entered the Southeast Missourian's contest, the university community now has four competing lyrics to choose from.

They're all posted on the newspaper's Web site,

The university has a mascot, Rowdy the Redhawk. It's about time, four lyricists say, that the school put some spirited words to the tune.

All four -- Boyer, Tony Smee, Jeremy Nall and Gabriel Gonzalez -- believe they've crafted just the right words to fire up Southeast's sports fans.

The contest sparked the interest of Barry Bernhardt, who directs the school's bands.

Won't happen overnight

He said putting words to the fight song has merit. "We will definitely look at that," said Bernhardt. But he pointed out that adding words to the university fight song won't happen overnight.

"It means the formation of another committee," the bands' director said.

Still, Bernhardt said he's for anything that will spark school spirit. Too few students attend the school's sporting events, he said.

"We have always had a pretty apathetic student body when it comes to sporting events unless you are going to get a free T-shirt out of it," he said.

School president Dr. Ken Dobbins said putting words to the fight song isn't a bad idea, provided the lyrics are good.

"It depends on the words," he said.

The four who took the Missourian's challenge believe they've got just the right words for the song.

Boyer, who teaches music at Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Jackson and directs a choir in Perryville, Mo., played the fight song in the marching band at Southeast.

He also played in the school's Show Band at basketball games. He graduated in December 2004 but a year later he was still playing in the Show Band just for the fun of it.

"I have probably played it more than anybody in the history of the university," said Boyer, who still finds time to play the organ at Southeast baseball games at Capaha Field.

Now that the university has scrapped the "Indian" nickname in favor of Redhawks and come up with costumed mascot "Rowdy," Boyer said it only makes sense that the school should put words to its fight song.

"It would be cool," said Boyer, who admits to being somewhat of an expert on college fight songs.

"Notre Dame has the greatest fight song in the history of fight songs," he said. "Michigan's fans have words to their song too.

"They have a syllable for almost every single note played," said Boyer.

Smee knows musical notes, too.

As a student at Southeast in the late 1980s, Smee played in the university's marching band.

Most of the time, the band played the University of Wisconsin fight song. But the band also played what has become Southeast's true fight song.

Combined songs

The fight song actually combines two songs and incorporates a snippet of "God Bless America" and a drum interlude.

Smee graduated in 1991. But the Cape Girardeau resident couldn't resist putting words to the music.

"How hard can it be?" he asked himself. "How many ways can you use red and black and victory and fight, fight, fight?"

The creation was a surprise to his wife, who never figured he'd be a songwriter.

But Smee said he likes playing with words. "I am good with limericks."

Gonzalez found a way to "vanquish all our foes" in his lyrics.

The Jackson resident moved to the area three years ago from San Antonio. He never studied at Southeast, but he loves being a fan.

"I have always been a person who loves school spirit," said Gonzalez who was a cheerleader in his Texas high school. "I was the first male cheerleader in 40 years at South San Antonio High School," he said.

Gonzalez, who writes poetry as a hobby, said he came up with his version of Southeast's fight song in about 15 minutes.

"I listened to the tune and tried to fit words and emotions into that song," he said.

Southeast junior Jeremy Nall transferred to Southeast in January after completing his studies at Three Rivers Community College.

Nall, who lives off campus in Cape Girardeau, said he was surprised to find that Southeast has a wordless fight song.

"It is kind of embarrassing to go to a game and you can't sing a fight song," he said.

Nall's proud of his "soar with Rowdy" lyrics.

Never mind that none of the contestants won a prize for their spirited words. Nall said making it onto the newspaper's Web site was fame enough.

So far, school officials haven't embraced any of the lyrics offered by the contestants.

"I am going to have to sing my own lyrics at the games," said Nall.

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