UT Places Gary Sousa on Leave; Names Interim Band Director

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has relieved Director of Bands Gary Sousa from his leadership position with the Pride of the Southland Band and placed him on administrative leave for the remainder of the fall semester.

Don Ryder will serve as interim director of bands for the remainder of the season.

Officials cited insubordination, misrepresentation of facts, and a lack of confidence in Sousa’s ability to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward. The administrative leave is pending a full review.

“We fully support the Pride of the Southland Band,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said. “We want every student musician to have a great experience and enjoy being part of a wonderful and cherished tradition.”

Cheek met with members of the Pride of the Southland band this afternoon to discuss the change in leadership and to ask for their help.

“The Pride has a 144-year esteemed history with our university. It is never about just one person. We must stand together and work together to create the very best game day experience for all,” the chancellor said.

Also attending the band meeting were Provost Susan Martin, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Theresa Lee, School of Music Director Jeff Pappas, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart, and UT Football Coach Butch Jones.

“I wholeheartedly support the right of students to be engaged and advocate for a cause about which they are passionate. But I am troubled by the use of inaccurate or misleading statements,” Cheek said.

UT officials said Sousa’s promotion of misleading claims to alumni and band members has created a divisive and counterproductive environment. Sousa encouraged students and alumni to speak out against the Athletics Department over reduced playing time and reductions in travel and budget. This followed the UT vs. Georgia game in which the band played significantly more than in this year’s previous home games.

In a letter to Sousa, Provost Martin noted, “Competition for resources and conflict between competing interests within the university are normal. Your actions to circumvent the normal methods of conflict resolution are shockingly insubordinate.”

Sousa has served as director of bands and professor of music since 1997. He is a tenured faculty member in the School of Music.

Ryder has worked for UT for 14 years. He also conducts the UT Symphonic Band and teaches undergraduate instrumental conducting.

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