By Emily Younker
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Amy Sampson and Kathy DeMint have the distinct honor of adding "official fight song lyric composer" to their resumes.
The women, both teachers in Southwest Missouri and graduates of Missouri Southern State University, are the winners of a recent university-sponsored contest that invited people to compose their own words to the almost 40-year-old MSSU fight song.
"It's really cool" to be part of that history, Sampson said last week.
The tune was written by Delbert Johnson, former music instructor and marching band director, in 1969 and went more than four decades without having any official words attached to it. Brian Fronzaglia, director of percussion and administrator of the contest, said more than 100 entries were submitted.
"One of the main things we were looking for was lyrics that fit perfectly within the music that had already been written," he said. "As far as content, we were looking for something that is typical in fight songs. You find something inspirational to rile the crowd up, to get the team ready to go, while also understanding school history and school tradition."
Sampson, of Monett, and DeMint, of Joplin, each submitted separate entries, which judges intertwined to create the final lyrics. They were announced as winners during a recent basketball game and each received a plaque, a membership to the Alumni Association and bragging rights.
"I think I grinned the entire night," DeMint said. "It was fantastic, and seeing the words up on that banner (which hangs above the pep band during games), it was amazing."
DeMint, a 1980 graduate, is a music teacher for Joplin Schools, director of the Joplin Elementary All-City Singers and co-director of the Joplin Elementary All-City Orchestra. As a music major at MSSU, she had performed the fight song with the university's band.
"It's really neat because I got to march to the song," she said. "And then as a parent, my daughter was in the Missouri Southern band and marched to the fight song."
DeMint said she saw the contest advertised in The Joplin Globe and thought she would give it a shot.
"I thought about it for a little bit, and some of the first words I put down just kind of came to me," she said. "From there, it was working them around and seeing what I wanted to put in there."
Sampson, a 2003 graduate, is an English teacher at Monett High School. She also is a youth minister, photographer and singer-songwriter who will release her first album, "By and By," later this year.
After hearing about the contest through a university email announcement, she took a rather methodical and calculated approach to crafting her lyrics. She even jokingly posted on Facebook: "Just so you know, I'm going to win."
"I found the song on the (MSSU) website and listened to it over and over again," she said. "I also looked at other fight songs from other colleges and universities just to see what some common themes and ideas were, just to make sure I had the same feel in my lyrics."
Sampson said her final lyrics incorporated several of those themes: victory, power, pushing through to the finish line. In fact, her favorite line is the first one, which urges listeners "onward to victory."
Having played basketball for Ozark Christian College, where she earned an associate's degree before obtaining her bachelor's degree from MSSU, she said she understands the pride that comes with being victorious on the court.
"Victory is so important to your coaches and your team and your university and college as well," she said. "That's just one of those things where everybody knows you don't want to be the team on the losing side."
Meanwhile, DeMint said her favorite line is the last one. She said she particularly wanted to use "MoSo," a nickname for Missouri Southern that she is sure wasn't around when she was a student, in her lyrics.
"The words came very easily, and it makes me feel good about Missouri Southern, and it really connected," she said.
Fronzaglia said Sampson's and DeMint's lyrics were chosen because they were all-encompassing, creative and catchy.
"It's something that we know that a year, five years, 10 years, 75 years down the road, we'll be able to remember the words to the fight song because they did such a great job with their words," he said.