The Hays High Rebels have charged onto the field to “Dixie” for decades, but students are now choosing a new song.
“For the upperclassmen, it’s leaving a legacy which is always a big part of your final years in high school,” said Hays High senior Austin Uresti.
Hays CISD removed “Dixie” as the school’s fight song at the beginning of the school year, citing its controversial ties to the Confederacy. The move drew strong reaction from both students and alumni.
Uresti was the last person to lead the school’s band in “Dixie.” He said it’s been an adjustment, but supports the action.
“Just from the current political (land)scape of the U.S., and the current – just everything happening in the nation, it was time to move on,” he said.
When the school initially removed "Dixie", they reasoned that it would help them keep the "Rebel" mascot, as some may connect the connotation with the Confederacy. Keeping the school's name was important to Uresti.
"The fact that we're getting to keep our mascot identity is a huge aspect of the smoothness of the transition, really. Because you might not hear the fight song everyday, but every day you're at Hays, you are a Hays Rebel. And its' really nice to know that that brand still exists, and that identity still exists within everybody. Like you can talk to somebody who graduated in the 70s, and they'd still be a Hays Rebel," Uresti said.
Hays High used "On Wisconsin," which was the school's original fight song, this season, but students voiced a desire to create a new song.
Four composers have submitted original pieces to the school. The compositions - listed as "Song A," "Song B," "Song C," and "Song D" - come from two university-based composers (Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin), a freelancer, and a former Hays High graduate and assistant band director. To maintain the integrity of the vote, school officials did not identify which composer created each selection.
Go here to listen to the proposed fight songs.
Composers were paid $1,000 for their submissions, and the composer whose song is chosen will receive $5,000. Hays CISD will have full ownership of the chosen song, and return the rights of the other choices to the respective composers.
Students have until April 21 to vote on the song. If no song has the majority of the vote, there will be a run-off between the top two choices.
“I think it’s a very positive reaction, because we know that it’s very independent of other people and their opinions,” said senior Lois Bronaugh.
“’Dixie’ is something that a lot of people know and understand, like they’ve heard it so many times before. So we’re going to come out with this new song, and it’s almost like we have a new start and a new beginning," said senior band member Gracie Hough.
Bronaugh said using a newly-created song has made the transition easier.
"It's something that's not controversial at all, and it's very, very unique unto us," she said.
Hough, who was in the band, said she doesn't believe any of the four choices will be difficult for students to pick up.
"I think the best part of band is learning something new, and getting to have a new tune that you get to listen to in your head. So even if the freshman get to hear it for the next three years at their high school, it's something that they're going to be growing up with, so it's something that they can really call their own," said Hough.
District leaders believe it's served as a valuable teaching lesson for students.
"I'd like to think, it's as much a civics lesson for these students as it has been a process of selecting a song that will be their legacy here," said Hays CISD Director of Student Services Neil Bonavita.