Lights go out on Tullahoma band during performance
Members of the Coffee County and Tullahoma marching bands come together for a picture after performing Friday night at Carden-Jarrell Field in Manchester. (Photo provided by Nicole Thompson, www.cloud9imagery.com)
The 88th annual Coffee Pot rivalry spilled over into the postgame band performances Friday night at Carden-Jarrell Field.
Due to senior night activities during halftime, both the Central High School and the Tullahoma High School bands were scheduled to march following the game. But during Tullahoma’s performance the stadium lights were cut off by CHS students.
“We have completed our investigation and the students who were involved have been punished appropriately,” said CHS principal Joey Vaughn.
After a brief pause, the Tullahoma band continued its performance through the blackout, much to the pleasure of the crowd.
“We asked the kids if they could continue and they said they could and were pretty excited about it,” said Tullahoma band co-director Greg English.
Tullahoma’s performance was delayed for several minutes from the onset while players from both teams lingered on the field. Even after the Tullahoma band took the field some parents and Red Raider football players can be seen on video lingering on the field in an apparent effort to obstruct the performance. Cries from the stands for players to “leave the field” were also audible.
“It was an emotional night for students as well as adults,” said Vaughn. “Everybody is ultimately going to take care of their kid. Basically we have an emotional group of students and also know there were adults who made poor decisions along the way. But the actions of a few don’t represent the masses.”
After the lights went out someone placed a 911 call to the Coffee County Communications Center for safety purposes and a separate call was placed Saturday to file a report, according to Steve Deford with the communications center.
How the students had access to the breaker box that controls the stadium lights is still unknown.
“As a general rule that box is closed and there is more investigation into what actually happened with the box,” added Vaughn.
“I have nothing but respect for my football team, the football parents … and the same with Tullahoma and their team. Both teams played exceptionally well and conducted themselves in a manner both communities could be proud of. [The communities] should be proud of the bands, too. They showed us at the end when they came together and played together. As a community we are going to support each other and sometimes things happen that make us lose our focus.”
While the Tullahoma band was playing through the dark, Manchester Times staff writer Milton Stanley allegedly tampered with Tullahoma band equipment. Stanley is no longer employed by the Manchester Times.
“We sincerely apologize for the actions taken by one of our employees during the Tullahoma High School band performance Friday night,” said Times publisher Jack Owens. “These actions do not accurately represent the Manchester Times or the professionalism in which we expect all of our employees to conduct themselves with.”
Bands “come together” over controversy
Once the lights went out English said his first thoughts centered on safety.
“We immediately sent the parents to surround the kids,” said English. “Based on how we had to come on the field a lot [of parents] were already on the field. We said surround the kids, make sure they are safe. Then we stepped out on the field and our eyes adjusted a little. The video makes it look very dark but it wasn’t that dark. You could maybe see within five or 10 feet around you.”
English said when the band began playing again the show actually took on the feel of a rock concert.
“We put flashlights on the field commander so they could see him and told them to go. When they cranked back up the crowd was just [electric]. Unfortunately, none of the videos show that moment when we start playing again because everyone assumed we were done they stopped videoing. To have all the cell phone [lights] up there in the dark … it was really an atmosphere of a rock-and-roll show.”
English added that the atmosphere seemed to excite his band.
“You can tell the excitement level starts growing [towards the end]. Some of them start overblowing but man it was amazing. We told them that was an experience they will never forget. They felt such pride in what they had done.”
English added that the band acted flawlessly when the lights went out.
“They are conditioned to do certain things,” English explained. “When the lights went off they didn’t break set, they didn’t start talking or screaming like the crowd did. They just waited for instructions. All they knew to do was to keep going really.”
After Tullahoma finished, the Red Raider Marching Band played its show and the two bands joined together afterwards to mingle. The percussion sections even dueled with one another
“They were hugging each other and shaking hands,” said Tullahoma band co-director Justin Scott. “The drum lines started playing towards each other.”
Added English: “Yeah, we had to make them leave. They just didn’t want it to end. They were pleased with themselves and proud of each other by how they conducted themselves. The kids really taught the adults something.”
Now both band programs have joined together to design a t-shirt that will serve as a fundraiser for both band programs. The shirts will read: “One county, one spirit, one pride.”
“The t-shirts sell for $10 and every $4 goes to the two band programs,” explained Scott.