Sonja Massey makes sure the Tiger Band stays ‘in tune’ both on and off the field
By Sallie McKenzie
Ordering 85 or more pizzas each time she calls makes Sonja Massey one of Papa John’s favorite customers. As the administrative assistant for Clemson University Bands, placing food orders of such a large quantity has become rather standard; however, feeding hungry band students is not the only item on Massey’s to-do list. She oversees the band’s behind-the-scenes operations, which includes ordering music, arranging instrument repairs and making sure the uniforms get cleaned.
A University employee for 22 years, Massey began this position with the band program 13 seasons ago after holding other positions on campus in the performing arts and education departments. Since then, she has worked for three band directors, watched at least three classes of Clemson students come and go, and enjoyed numerous half-time shows, including her two favorites, “Guitar Hero” and the “Space Cat” collaboration with the Digital Production Arts program.
Massey also serves as the band’s resident travel agent, making sure the entire group arrives at its destination on time. Understandably, planning trips of this magnitude is certainly different from planning a family vacation, but Massey has become an expert, double-checking all details weeks ahead of time.
“Sonja is the lifeblood of all the bands at Clemson,” said Mark Spede, director of bands. “Without her, the bands could not eat, sleep or get from one point to another.”
As a perk for her hard work, Massey typically attends two away games with the band every season and some bowl games when the Clemson football team has a stellar season. Her first bowl game experience was in Boise, Idaho, at the Humanitarian Bowl on New Year’s Eve 2001.
But away games and bowl games are not the high points of her job. Massey relishes the privilege of working with students every day. “It’s the most rewarding and enjoyable part of my job,” she said with a smile. “I couldn’t do it without their help. There are always students around asking me, ‘What do you need me to do today?’”
One would assume that being around all of these talented Clemson musicians daily and hearing them practice all the time would send a little melodious flair in Massey’s direction. Even so, she claims to have no musical talent of her own. If she did, Massey thinks that the saxophone would be her instrument of choice.
Next time you see Tiger Band marching into Death Valley or performing a spectacular half-time show, think of Massey, who has worked for years behind the scenes making sure the band stays “in tune” both on and off the field.