Georgia football fans not in the habit of remaining in the stands well after home games end might not even be aware of the UGA Redcoat Marching Band’s tradition of playing the song “Tara’s Theme” as Sanford Stadium empties of spectators. Nevertheless, that tradition has ended.
Brett Bawcum, acting director of Georgia’s famous 440-member musical ensemble, announced via social media Wednesday night that the band was dropping that song from its repertoire in deference to the national cry against racial injustice. The band now will play “Georgia on My Mind” at that time instead.
“Tara’s Theme” is the main score from the Academy Award-winning movie “Gone With The Wind,” released in Atlanta in 1939. Some consider the film to be sympathetic to the Confederacy at the end of the Civil War in 1865.
“Though the tradition has been under discussion for months within the band, the current social media climate has highlighted the urgency of addressing it and made me conscious of the message that could be interpreted by delay,” Bawcum wrote. “To be clear, the issue with the tradition is not the motivation of those who have embraced it, but rather the possibilities it may limit in those who haven’t. I value tradition, but I value creating a welcoming environment much more.”
At UGA, the Redcoats have played the slow, dramatic tune for decades as fans filed out of the stadium whether the Bulldogs won or lost. The student-based band members put their own touches on it, including swaying in unison and chanting, “Once a Dawg, always a Dawg; how sweet it is!” at the song’s conclusion.
“I am saddened that this tradition will end,” said Winder resident Kristin Williams, a 1997 UGA alumnus who played piccolo for the Redcoats. “It was something that we always looked forward to after each game. But I do understand Brett’s decision to replace this tradition with a new one. It’s the right thing to do in this current climate.”
Probably an even more significant development included in Bawcum’s social-media message was a vow to bring more diversity to the Redcoat Band through recruiting. The band operates under the direction of UGA’s Hodgson School of Music, and most members are awarded some level of scholarship.
“Know that we will continue working to extend opportunities to more black and minority students,” wrote Bawcum, himself a Redcoat alum and a doctorate of musical studies at UGA. “Eighty percent of our exhibition sites over the last five years have been majority-minority high schools. We have even more such existing commitments, with an emphasis on reaching a black audience.”
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