Redcoat Band marks 25th, 30th anniversaries of Dancz award, “Battle Hymn”

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Joel Garcia performs “Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation” as soloist in Sanford Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016.

The University of Georgia Redcoat Band celebrates two major anniversaries in 2017, one that draws on the memory of one of the band’s great innovators and another that honors one of UGA football’s most popular pregame traditions.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the pregame “Battle Hymn” and the 25th anniversary of the Phyllis Dancz Memorial Award, two traditions of tremendous importance to generations of Redcoats.

The Phyllis Dancz Memorial Award is named for the woman who, in 1955, created the “Georgettes,” the first unit of what would become the UGA Auxiliaries, which now includes the Flagline, Georgettes and Majorettes.

“Along with her husband, Roger Dancz, the director of bands at the time, Phyllis helped turn the Redcoat Band from a simple marching band into a half-time entertainment extravaganza,” said Stephanie Arnette Powell, a former Georgette and Phyllis Dancz Memorial Award winner.

Phyllis Dancz passed away in 1991, and the award bearing her name was created in 1992. Awarded each year, it recognizes a member of the Georgettes, Majorettes and Flagline who exemplifies Dancz in leadership and spirit.

“This award is special, very special,” said Danielle Jones Faust, another former Georgette and award winner. “And, for those of us who have been lucky enough to receive this award, we realize the great honor it is to be recognized as emulating Mrs. Dancz.”

“Phyllis and Roger loved the University of Georgia,” said Powell. “And Phyllis loved us. We are proud to honor her and her legacy this year.”

The other anniversary of 2017 is one that’s become a fixture at home UGA football games over nearly two decades: the “Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation.”

The tradition has its beginnings in the summer of 1987, two weeks before football season began, at the Redcoat Band’s annual band camp. Marion English, a trumpet section leader, and Jeff Simmons, a rehearsal assistant, met in Simmons’ apartment after brass section leaders began discussing a new “hype tune,” based on UGA’s traditional fight song “Glory to Georgia.”

“We each had different ideas on how this new version of ‘Glory’ should sound,” said English. “But, we both agreed on a slow, dignified approach, which showed reverence to our alma mater.”

After the piece had been completed, Simmons distributed parts for individual sections to those sections’ leaders and had them prepare with only themselves and in secret, hoping to unveil the piece as a surprise during a full band rehearsal. 

The day after distributing the parts, they got their chance. Nervous from never having heard the music in its entirety nor rehearsed together, the brass section performed the new piece.

“As the last note ended, it echoed through the hall and chills ran down the collective spine of everyone in the room,” said English. “Applause erupted from the staff and the remainder of the band.”

Dwight Satterwhite, then-Redcoat Band director, insisted parts be created for the woodwind section, and Simmons wrote the version of the “Battle Hymn” that would be played before home football games for the next 30 years, beginning in the 80s and 90s at the band’s pregame warmup in the Tate Student Center parking lot—the predecessor to today’s Dawg Walk.

In 2000, Redcoat Band associate director Brett Bawcum solidified the tradition in the UGA mythos by adding “Battle Hymn” in its entirety to the pregame show inside Sanford Stadium. This, with the band on the field and a trumpet soloist in the southwest 300-level, is how many now know “Battle Hymn” and how the position of “Battle Hymn Soloist” has become coveted within the Band.

“It has spawned hundreds of requests for Redcoat trumpeters to appear at community, university, and alumni events—even at funerals of dearly departed Dawgs,” said English. “Over these thirty years I have had the distinct honor of performing that solo many times, and it gives me great pride to see so many current trumpeters receive the well-deserved recognition this achievement brings to them.”