BUFORD—Every home football game for the University of Georgia is preceded with a song known as "The Battle Hymn," a take on the schools unofficial fight song "Glory Glory," that is played alongside a highlight video narrated by the late Larry Munson.
For Joel Garcia, of Buford, the experience of being one of the five selected "Battle Hymn" trumpet soloists for 2015 has been both rewarding and humbling, especially when it's his turn to be the soloist for the pre-game marching show. During that performance, the soloist stands among the crowd in the southwest corner of the stadium, in the upper deck, where he or she plays the part over the stadium's speakers.
"It's one of the craziest experiences," said Garcia. "At first I was like 'I got this!' It's just a solo, just 14 notes. But when you're up there and 92,000 people look at you—and they point at you—you just have this moment of 'Oh my gosh, everybody's relying on me right now.'"
The week leading up to the first game, trumpet players (excluding freshmen) are invited to audition for the part. All the directors sit in on the blind auditions, and after several rounds they narrow the field to the four or five soloists who will play the part throughout the football season.
"It's honestly very humbling to have that opportunity, even for one year. If I don't get it next year, oh well. I got it this year, I did it," said Garcia, who is originally from North Carolina.
The band plays the song three times on an average game day, starting with the Dawg Walk, where the band forms a lane to allow the football players to enter the stadium from the buses on Lumpkin Street. It also plays during the pre-game marching show, which happens around 20 minutes before kickoff in the stadium, and during the post-game concert in the stands immediately following the game.
"We just kind of rotated around," said Garcia, referring to which solos got taken by which soloist.
The second year Music Education Major came up through the Buford City Schools, and said that his main instrument coming into college wasn't even the trumpet.
"I used to play euphonium, but then I switched to trumpet," said Garcia. "This is actually my second year being on lead trumpet, but last year I got into the (Hugh Hodgson) School of Music here at UGA through a euphonium audition. After a while I figured (that) maybe this wasn't my thing, so I started practicing trumpet."
He said pursuing music in college has been an extremely rewarding experience.
"I wouldn't want to go anywhere else. All the opportunities that I've had have kept me on track to what I want to do," said Garcia. "There's no other. Once a dawg, always a dawg."
How sweet it is.