On August 28 the Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners Band put on a brief but controversial show at JSU's first football game against the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Little did they know that their performance would cause an uproar among some Georgia Tech fans, JSU alumni and students.
The Marching Southerners show is entitled "From Russia with Love." The performance features works from famous Russian composers.
The controversy erupted over a symbol that was featured on the Colorguard's uniforms and flags. The Hammer and Sickle is a part of Communist symbolism and its usage indicates an association with Communism. It was featured prominently on outfits worn by the JSU Colorgaurd.Ken Bodiford, band director at JSU, received emails of complaint from JSU alumni about the usage of the symbol in the show.
One email, from an unrevealed source, was posted by Bodiford, with his reply on marchingsoutherners.org. The email claimed that a true Southerner would never bear the symbol of the former Soviet Union and that it was a slap in the face to the Southern tradition and the values that we hold dear in the South.
Bodiford's reply talked about how everything had been taken out of context, that their musical consists of all Russian composers, and that the hammer and sickle was featured on the Soviet Union's flag during that time period. Their hope was that the audience would make that connection with the flags at the end of the show.
"Personally, I think when some people notice that something is successful they will try to find anything to tear it down," said Aaron Garland, a senior Marching Southerner trombone player. "Because of ignorance, we cannot incorporate the kind of artistry we always do in our shows."
This topic has been discussed through emails, forums, discussion boards and even Facebook. Bodiford and other head personnel of the Southerners have decided to remove the hammer and sickle from the production entirely, according to Corey Newton, Southerners senior head drum major.
"We are trying to fix it, and be classy. We want to please everybody," said Ryan Morris, freshman color guard for the Southerners.
The Southerns have endured some harsh comments about this part of their show and have even been accused of supporting Communism.
"The irony of the complaints is that Shostakovich, one of the composers used at the end of the show, was extremely against communism. The triumphant ending of his fifth symphony is meant to celebrate the fall of communism that he hoped would come," Newton said.
Some Southerners seem to think the recent affairs between Russia and Georgia brought more attention to the show than what it originally would have received.