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American Journey: The making of a drum major

  • When it comes to historically black colleges and universities, drum majors are like rock stars
  • Watch students compete to join Jackson State University's 'Sonic Boom'
  • Find out who wins May 12 at 7 p.m. ET on HLN's American Journey
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Ty Pennington hosts HLN's new original series "American Journey"

Jackson State University in Mississippi is home to one of the most prestigious HBCU (historically black college/university) marching bands in the country. They're called the "Sonic Boom of the South" and they bring down the house in front of huge crowds all across the country. Getting a spot in the band isn't easy -- it means months of hard work, good grades and a whole lot of practice. But it comes with its perks, too. Being a part of the "Boom" means you're pretty popular on campus.

So what's better than being in the band? How about being one of the five drum majors who direct the band. The majors call themselves the "J Five" -- and it's even harder than you can imagine.
In addition to homework and holding down a job, the drum majors sometimes practice for hours a day. During the football season, they can forget about a social life. But all the hard work and dedication is worth it. As the band director told us, becoming a drum major is like being "the Muhammad Ali of the campus." It transforms them from just a student to being a lifelong leader.
Ambitions of joining the J Five can happen early. Many students we met started thinking about it when they were just kids. For them, being a drum major is about more than just being the Big Man (or Woman) on campus. It's a dream.
We followed several students with this very same dream, including a woman, which is pretty rare when it comes to drum majors. We were with them through the entire competition -- the sweat, the tears and the many auditions.  
So who made the cut? Find out on HLN's American Journey, hosted by Ty Pennington. It premieres Sunday, May 12 at 7 p.m. ET, only on HLN.

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