The Biggest Stage

School of Music alums rock Super Bowl halftime show with Bruno Mars

Were James King (M.Mu ’09) and Dwayne Dugger (M.Mu ’10) ever asked to guess where they thought they might be on Feb. 2, 2014, neither could have possibly surmised that they would be on the stage during halftime at the 48th annual Super Bowl. Yet that’s just where they were performing before a record television audience of more than 115 million viewers.

The two School of Music alums are band members alongside one of the entertainment industry’s most popular musical talents: Bruno Mars. Playing the trumpet and saxophone respectively, this pair has made incredible names for themselves since graduating from Georgia State.

For King, playing for such a massive audience at the Super Bowl was something like receiving a long-awaited Christmas gift.

Dwayne Dugger (top left) and James King (left, kneeling) after a Staples Center performance with Grammy Award winner, Platinum record producer and artist Bruno Mars. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Atlantic Records)

Dwayne Dugger (top left) and James King (bottom left) after a Staples Center performance with Grammy winner Bruno Mars. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Atlantic Records)

“When an anticipated gift is brought to you, you experience a mix of nervous butterflies and intangible excitement. Honestly, it was something like that,” King explained when remembering how he felt as cheers overwhelmed his ears and he looked out at the sea of excited fans. “Once the lights hit us on that world-renowned stage, I was floating on cloud nine. Memories of that night still leave me speechless.”

Dugger describes his Super Bowl experience as a culmination of years of effort on top of several chilly nights of enthusiastic preparation.

“The Super Bowl was an incredible experience. Never in a million years could I have imagined performing on that stage. We braved the cold during countless rehearsals in order to put on an impeccable show. I will always be grateful for this moment in history that I got to be a part of.”

These two have no doubt lived the musician’s dream. For both of them, it all started in Atlanta. Dugger, born and raised in New York, moved here after high school to pursue his bachelor’s degree at Morehouse College in music performance. King, who hails from Connecticut, also attended Morehouse as an undergrad.

Both were separately involved in their own musical endeavors — playing local shows, connecting with other artists, and gaining a plethora of experiences that would later lead them to Bruno Mars. In a city like Atlanta, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the thriving music scene, and both King and Dugger helped shape it into what it is today.

Dugger and King have a lot in common — but most importantly, they are each living out their wildest dreams side-by-side, and they’re doing it with a group of people that they consider family.

As Dugger put it, “Bruno Mars is not like other artists who disassociate themselves from their band whenever possible. He’s down to earth and accessible. He treats us as if we are his blood brothers. The chemistry is evident via our mutual respect for one another and the desire to present quality music.”

King added, “The experience is absolutely comparable to being on tour with your family. Bruno and his ‘hooligans’ are a band of brothers that love playing music together. And I would tell aspiring musicians that when you get to this level if it isn’t fun then something is wrong. I have fun every single day, no matter how hard I’m working or how long we’ve been on the road. When you’re living your dream, every day feels like the best version of reality possible.”