GERMANTOWN, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Dreams of a marching band championship were crushed after Middle Tennessee State University announced it was cancelling the 56th Contest of Champions. The decision comes amid safety concerns of a white supremacist rally planned for the weekend.
The decision impacts hundreds of band members including those who attend Houston High School in Germantown.
"We've been talking about it on Snap Chat and other forums," said Houston High School sophomore Aaron Bardos.
Bardos plays in the marching band and says students learned about the decision Monday.
"It's upsetting," he said. "We've been practicing for three months. We wanted to go and show them that we're winners."
Houston High School is one of 28 marching bands listed on the performance schedule that was slated to go to Murfreesburro, Tennessee Saturday.
The competition coincides with a planned white supremacist rally, dubbed "White Lives Matter." That rally is expected to happen in downtown Murfreesboro.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee told the community and those impacted that he stands by the decision to cancel weekend events, citing safety.
In a released statement McPhee said:
"I wanted to provide you with an update regarding Saturday's planned protest rally in Murfreesboro. In consultation with law enforcement officials, the University has decided to cancel Saturday's Contest of Champions band competition and postpone the Expanding Your Horizons science event due to the protests scheduled or planned for the downtown area. We decided it was wise to reduce traffic to the surrounding area Saturday and these decisions will allow our police and other security personnel to be available elsewhere on campus if needed.
The MTSU Police Department and our partners from city, county and state law enforcement have not received any verified information regarding any potential activities on campus related to the protests. However, as the downtown rally approaches, we are monitoring a variety of sources, including from social media, about potential concerns before, during and after Saturday and we are ready to respond if situations warrant. Meanwhile, we are also reaching out to sponsors of on-campus activities on Friday and Saturday to ensure they are aware of the situation.
As I said in my earlier note, please do not hesitate to call 615-898-2424 (ext. 2424 for on campus phones) if you need assistance or see anything that causes concern for your safety - or 911 in emergencies. Also, if you're not already receiving text alerts and/or voice alerts from our MTSU Alert4U and Emergency Response system, please consider signing up for the service by visiting http://www.getrave.com/login/mtsu. You can log in with your Pipeline credentials to change or update your notification preferences. MTSU residence halls and apartments will lock at 5 p.m. Friday and will remain locked until 8 a.m. Monday. Residents should plan to carry their keys and IDs.
Again, we all must remember what it means to be True Blue and conduct ourselves accordingly."
The decision by MTSU to cancel events is one Aaron's mother Michelle respects.
"Of course I want to see him perform," she said. "But I don't want my child to be there. It's a sad state for society. I totally appreciate the university looking out for everybody."
To combat the issue, Spring Hill High School is planning to host a competition on October 28th for bands displaced by the MTSU Contest of Champions cancellation.
According to social media posts by Tennessee Marching groups are organizing what they're calling the 2017 Contest of Resilience. Right now organizers are discussing the competition layout and judging panel.
Listed below is a list of interested/committed groups:
- Coffee County
- Mt. Juliet
- Union City
- Bob Jones