Rocky Top Tennessee
by Jeremy Chance
It’s that wonderful season of the spring semester that all college students look forward to:
Hopefully yours has started as well as mine has with the Glee Club. I’m currently sitting at my homestay in Fort Myers, Florida. Fortunately for my group of guys, we’re staying with Ethan Lapham’s parents. I’m kind of jealous of Ethan. This week, as the rest of us are on the road, he gets to spend the whole week here at home…with a couple shows on the side.
It has to be a pretty cool feeling!
We headed out around 8:00 AM Thursday morning, and as I mentioned, we were first heading for Tennessee. After about an 8 or 9 hour drive, we arrived at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Although our performance wasn’t until Friday evening, Thursday was to spent as a travel day, as well as a special tour of the basketball arena and football stadium.
We first got to check out Thompson-Boling Arena, UT’s basketball facility. The arena was pretty cool and significantly larger than Mackey Arena.
They were having this event called “WinterFest” going on, so the basketball court wasn’t down, but it was still pretty cool to see. We got to head up to some of the box suites and check out the views from there, and it was pretty cool. I think for one of the suite sections, with LazyBoy-esque chairs, it cost about $30,000 a year. Regardless of the price, I’d have to say it’d be worth it. The view was amazing, seats comfortable, and I can imagine the service is high quality.
After checking out the arena we walked over to Neyland Stadium, UT’s football stadium.
The stadium is over a hundred years old, if I recall correctly, but renovations are definitely in the process. We again headed up to some of the box suites and before heading into the actually suites, we looked out behind us and got an beautiful view of Tennessee River and much of downtown Knoxville. We had only been in Knoxville for an hour or two, but it was very evident Tennessee is a beautiful state, and the city of Knoxville and the UT campus is no different.
The view from the box suites was unbelievable. These suites cost a little more than those at Thompson-Boling, at $50,000 a year. As big of a deal as football is in the south, it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
I know it’s hard to see from this view, but that third name there in the upper ring is that of Peyton Manning, former Tennessee Volunteer and current Indianapolis Colts quarterback.
After checking out the box suites and the outdoor upper suite level, we had the opportunity to head into the Tennessee locker room. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
We were able to explore the locker rooms a little bit, and as our tour concluded, our tour guide thanked us for coming and told us we were going to have the opportunity to step out on the field. Before we did that though, in true Volunteer fashion, we had to tap this sign and run out onto the field, just like the players do.
Running out on to the field was a pretty cool feeling. I’ve never really been to familiar with UT, but I know there’s such a rich football tradition there. To be able to tap that sign and run out onto the field, just like guys like Peyton Manning have, was freaking sweet. We walked out onto the field around the sideline. They didn’t want us walking out onto the actual field, but actually being able to be down on the field level was pretty amazing.
And I got a better picture of Peyton’s name!
Now, I know to this point it had only been about 8 or 9 hours into Spring Break for us, but we had by far the coolest moment right there down on that field. From time to time when we travel places, we’ll learn songs native to wherever we’re going. In preparation for the Tennessee trip, we learned a few Tennessee songs, including “Rocky Top.” For those of you who don’t know, “Rocky Top” is a huge deal to the people of Tennessee, so to be able to learn it for our performance was cool. As we’re standing on that field, we started singing “Rocky Top,” and it was a pretty unique experience.
After dinner in Knoxville, we boarded our buses and headed on to Patrick’s hometown, Greeneville, Tennessee. We drove about an hour and a half and arrived at the venue for the next night’s performance, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. By the way, I will say that Scott Niswonger is a pretty amazing guy and has done a lot for Greeneville. However, the NPAC was a beautiful facility and we were fortunate to have been able to perform there. After we arrived we unloaded our properties, met our homestay families for the evening. We stayed with the Hutcherson’s, friends of Patrick, and they were a very nice family to stay with.
I stayed with Jeremy Clifford, and the two of us had an entire expansive basement to ourselves. We each also had our own rooms. We walked downstairs and the mother told us we had the whole basement and she hoped it would be enough. Jeremy and I looked at each other and just said we’d manage…I guess you had to be there to see how much space we had. We got settled in and then left to meet the other seniors at Patrick’s house. It was a pretty chill evening. We had a few beers, played a little ping pong and just enjoyed the evening.
The next day, Friday, was a pretty packed day. We had a morning soundcheck at the NPAC, lunch at Patrick’s church, and then headed off for a tour of historic Greeneville, Tennessee. Now, this may seem pretty boring, and I initially thought so. Then we stepped up to the house of the 17th president of the United States Andrew Johnson.
I tend to take a lot of pictures, which I did at President Johnson’s house. I won’t post them in here. If you want to see them, check out my Facebook page. I’ll upload them into an album there. I think one of the coolest thing about the house was it was used by both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Not that I’m necessarily a fan of war, but I’ve always enjoyed learning about the Civil War, so it was cool to be in such a historic place. Our tour guide told us each army had used the walls to write strategies and other war-related stuff. For the sake of visitors, the walls were covered with wallpaper, except for one little sliver, to give tourists an idea of what the walls looked like.
It’s kind of hard to see, but towards the top you can make out “Andrew Johnson the tra(i)tor.” Apparently spelling wasn’t too important back in the day, so whoever wrote this misspelled traitor. An “i” was added later. I just thought this was a cool slice of history.
After President Johnson’s house we headed to a car museum and saw some cool cars, and then headed to the museum of Greeneville and Greene County.
Dinner was at the General Morgan Inn in their ball room which was beautiful. A wonderful dinner with great people is always great times. After dinner we headed to the NPAC to do the evening’s show.
Now, I may be exaggerating a bit with this statement, but I’m gonna say it anyways. I don’t I’ve been involved in as hyped and anticipated a show as was the show Friday night in Tennessee. I mean, we always look forward to Spring Break and all the shows we do are great. However, we’ve been building up this one show in Tennessee for such a long time.
I have to say, I personally don’t think we disappointed. The NPAC was just about sold out, so over a thousand Tennesseans were rocking along with us. From the beginning of the show to the end, we were nailing all of our songs. The specialties sounded great. Soloists sounded great. The atmosphere on and off stage were both incredible. It was just a cool show. Although it was a full two hour show, it was one of those shows that didn’t nearly feel like a two hour show. In my opinion, that’s how you know you’ve done a good show.
After the show we mingled with the wonderful people of Tennessee, packed up the bus and headed out. We saw some flashing blue and red lights ahead of us, and the next thing we know, we’re getting a police escort out of Greeneville! It honestly felt like we were rock stars there! Some kid actually asked for my autograph after the show. It was a pretty cool feeling.
Saturday has been a travel day, and we arrived in Fort Myers around 3:30. It’s been a pretty chill evening of food and college basketball (don’t even get me started on the Purdue game).
Keep checking back for more updates from the week in Florida. Tomorrow’s events include lunch and downtime at a country club and an evening show of only sacred music. Voiceovers even learned a religious song. We’re doing this song called “It’s Gonna Rain.” It should be pretty cool.
Have a good evening and thanks for reading!!