KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland marching band will perform Jan. 20 in its 10th consecutive president’s inaugural parade.
UT Band Director Gary Sousa said the band will play “Rocky Top” and “Tennessee Waltz” as part of the festivities to usher in President-elect George W. Bush.
Sousa said UT’s long string of inaugural parade performances reflects the band’s national reputation for excellence.
“It (10 straight inaugural parades) says a lot about the respect that the band has not only across the state but also on a national level,” Sousa said. “The tradition, discipline, precision and dedication that students put into this project has been a source of pride.
“A lot of people across the country realize that we are one of the mainstays of college bands. When you talk about the great college bands in this country, Tennessee is one of them.”
Sousa said delays from this year’s tight presidential race caused some concern for UT band members and inauguration officials.
“Our biggest problem was finding accommodations in Washington when everything was booked up,” Sousa said.
“It didn’t hold us up too much, but they (inauguration planners) had to do some scrambling to put this together. I think it was more of a problem for them than it was for us.”
Sousa said UT was chosen in a selection process conducted by U.S. Armed Forces officials and the Bush inauguration committee. Tennessee’s elected officials, including Sens. Bill Frist and Fred Thompson and Rep. John Duncan, also have supported UT’s inauguration trip, he said.
Despite the president-elect’s tough challenge from Tennessee’s Al Gore, Sousa said the UT band’s inauguration tradition is strictly nonpartisan.
“This is one of our band’s most prestigious traditions, and it goes across party lines,” Sousa said. “I don-t think that has ever been an issue.
“It-s a great thing to be an organization that year after year represents the people of Tennessee at the president’s inauguration.”
More information on the Presidential Inauguration Parade is available at: http://www.inauguration-2001.org/pr_parade.htm