As if the incoming Legislature didn't have enough problems, a high school band's rendition of a tune that was an Elvis Presley hit decades ago drew a complaint from a newly elected member of the Senate. The Richland Center High School band played "An American Trilogy" at the Senate's inaugural ceremony at the Capitol Monday - the first day of a session expected to be dominated by battles over budget-cutting, a tax-freeze amendment and a myriad of other issues.
Sen. Spencer Coggs, who is black, said he was shocked, as were his family and other guests, to hear the strains of the Southern anthem "Dixie" played in the Senate chamber as part of the trilogy, along with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "All My Trials." Coggs, a Democrat from Milwaukee, complained in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center.
"Whether the slight was intentional or not, the selection was not appropriate," he wrote, noting that "Dixie" is often associated with slavery. "While now it should be unnecessary to suggest, in the future a list of songs should be submitted prior to a performance and the list should be reviewed for its appropriateness," he said. "It is unfortunate that this special day was marred by such an unnecessary event."
Schultz had invited the band and choir to play at the ceremony. He said the complaint caught him by surprise. "A simple apology is what's needed," Schultz said, "and I will certainly be happy to do that." He said he wasn't aware of every musical selection the band prepared for the event, and the piece has some historical significance. "But I want everyone to feel included. If Sen. Coggs felt offended, I would want to extend my hand in apology."