FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2012
Volleyball’s Chunia Graves reshapes JU as a redshirt
JU volleyball redshirt freshman Chunia Graves has already changed the face of campus as we know it.
It hasn’t quite happened on the court yet as she and the Dolphins (0-3) travel to Orlando Friday for the Holiday Inn UCF Tournament. What she has changed is simply the JU Fight Song.
Last February, she was sitting in the stands at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena as the Dolphins men’s basketball team played Mercer. Graves heard the instrumental fight song for the first time and loved it.
She looked up the words to the song on her phone, but had trouble finding it. When she did found them, they didn’t match the melody all too well.
Graves, who fell in love with JU on her official visit, went on a mission to learn more about the song. She sought out two good sources on her journey in JU hoops legend Artis Gilmore and Vice President of University Relations, Dr. Derek Hall.
“I approached Derek Hall and Artis Gilmore about it,” Graves said. “One day, I walked into their office and said ‘Hey, how old is our fight song?’ I wanted to know more about it. I went to look it up at Wikipedia to try and figure it (the song) out and I didn’t like the lyrics too much.”
Graves was able to learn that Al Rogers wrote the song back in 1971. She wanted to re-write the song to coincide with the new marching band she knew was coming. Her passion for the school and song showed and Gilmore supported Graves through the process.
“He was very, very excited,” Graves said. “He was behind me every step of the way. I really appreciated that because I showed up to his office in my practice gear. I said ‘Will you help me out, I want to change the fight song.’ He saw the sense of the pride that showed in me in trying to change the university. I wanted everyone to know I am proud to be a Dolphin.”
The song took one to two days to re-write for Graves, who only occasionally writes poetry. After showing it to Dr. Hall, she was able to work with the new band director, Chris Creswell.
“We went over putting the actual melody to the lyrics in creating a rhythm for it to flow,” Graves said. “We worked together for maybe 20 minutes and he loved the idea and lyrics. He was ready to put something together for it. He did all of the magic.
“Overall, I wanted to make sure I incorporated Al Rogers’ original lyrics in the actual new fight song itself,” Graves said. “I definitely wanted to create some old camaraderie and bring it into our new era. I knew we have a new marching band coming and it was a great time to start over again so here we go.”
Graves and Creswell later played the new version for the Board of Trustees who unanimously approved the song for official use.
Fans can see below how Graves kept the top part of the lyrics in both Fight Songs. The new version has a couple of new lyrics for the last half. It also has a fastest and more upbeat speed to the song which performed by the marching band in the video to the right.
“One of my original ideas was to keep some of it the same,” Graves said. “I didn’t want to disrespect Al Rogers or anyone who was still singing and proud the original fight song. The hard part was to create the rhythm or flow.”
“Chunia’s enthusiasm for JU is infectious,” Hall said. “She showed up in my office one day with not only the idea of reviving the Fight Song, but also input on ways we could better promote the University to her peers. She has great insight and a willingness to put her ideas on the table. JU is definitely lucky to have her as a student now and an alum in a few short years.”
Like the songwriting for the first time, Graves redshirting on the volleyball court last season was a new to her.
“Mentally and physically, redshirting was an overall learning experience,” Graves said. “I got to watch my teammates learn and perform. I really got to get acclimated. Now, I am here again as a freshman, but I am here to help the new freshman. I want to tell them what I know.”
The new fight song went through a change much like the volleyball team who welcomed in a new staff in Michelle Collier, Susie Jangada and Kyle Cronk for the 2012 season. Graves believes this overall change will serve the team well in the long run.
“The new coaching staff is a step forward and we all are really looking forward to the season,” Graves said. “I believe as a team it is a change we all had to go through. We all took a step together, it was a huge one, but we are ready for the outcome.”
Much like her willingness to make JU stronger through song, Graves is looking to make the Dolphins better on the court.
“I am always thinking about what I can do to get better so that is definitely one of my main goals,” Graves said. “For the team, we have little goals that we have prepared to get us to one great thing. We are in here working day in and day out. All of us or none of us, it’s like that.”
“Chunia is always trying to find a way to give back to the University,” Collier said. “She loves being a student-athlete here at JU and always says that there is no better place to be.
“I admire her passion for making this school better and what she did for the fight song is just one more way of her thinking about creating stronger traditions for the University. We are proud of the great job she did, and I can’t wait to hear our new fight song during our sporting events!”
On Sept. 15, fans will get to feel the full effect on Graves contribution when the football team hits home field and the band plays the fight song for the first time. Graves may not get remembered like the original writer, Al Rogers, but she wants you to be proud of JU.
“I want JU to take a sense of pride out of it like I did,” Graves said. “As soon as I got here, I was happy to scream or shout something because I was proud to be a Dolphin. I want the school to feel that sense of pride too. I don’t walk around and just say I go to Jacksonville University. I want better things for the University itself. That is what I am looking for.”
The JU volleyball team plays Liberty (11 a.m.) and UCF (8 p.m.) on the first day of tourney. The Dolphins finish with Columbia Saturday at 4 p.m. Fans can follow the action through the live links on JUDolphins.com.