DC-Area Marching Bands Opt to Sit Out Inaugural Parade - NBC Southern California
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DC-Area Marching Bands Opt to Sit Out Inaugural Parade

The band at D.C.'s Howard University, which marched in Obama's first inaugural parade, also did not apply to march in Trump's parade



    The Ballou High School marching band proudly represented D.C. in President Barack Obama's second inaugural parade, Jan. 20, 2013. Here's the band on the parade route. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016)

    At least one D.C. public school marching band has participated in the past five inaugural parades, but none applied for consideration this year.

    Ballou High School's Majestic Marching Knights performed Destiny's Child's "Lose My Breath" at George W. Bush's second inaugural parade in 2005, and stepped along Pennsylvania Avenue as they played James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" at Barack Obama's second inaugural parade eight years later.

    But the beloved band decided to take a break in January and not apply to play in the inaugural parade after several other recent performances, the principal said.

    Dunbar High School's band marched in Obama's first inauguration in 2009 but the school will sit this one out because they are rebuilding the band, the principal said.

    Eastern High School also chose not to participate, the principal said, without elaborating.

    A D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman said she was not aware of any band in the district that had applied to participate in President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural parade Jan. 20.

    A band marches in President Barack Obama's first inaugural parade, Jan. 20, 2009.
    Photo credit: Getty Images

    The band at D.C.'s Howard University, which marched in Obama's first inaugural parade, also did not apply to march in Trump's parade. Band director John Newson said the band had too few members and was facing budgetary constraints.

    He said he suspects that many band directors' and school administrators' political beliefs played into whether they applied to participate in the parade. 

    "I think everybody knows why and no one wants to say and lose their job," Newson said.

    Applications to participate in the parade were due Dec. 5, and the Presidential Inaugural Committee is expected to announce soon which bands were selected. The committee did not respond to inquiries about how many applications were received.

    Bands' applications were accepted by the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR), a group of U.S. Armed Forces service members that assists the inaugural committee. The inaugural committee then selects the bands.

    The application deadline initially was Nov. 28. It was extended by a week to allow groups more time to apply, a JTF-NCR spokesman said.

    Bands from the hometowns and home states of the president and vice president often are selected to play, Drum Corps International events director Sue Kuehnhold said. She has worked with bands for more than 40 years.

    Ballou High School's Majestic Marching Knights in President Barack Obama's second inaugural parade, Jan. 20, 2013.
    Photo credit: NBC Washington

    An Arizona company that organizes band trips for schools across the country has seen lower interest than usual in this inaugural parade.

    "We didn't get the response that we got the last time, with Obama. Some groups responded, but with some groups it was crickets," Music Celebrations International marketing director Luke Wiscombe said. "We're seeing a little less enthusiasm to be a part of this event."

    Still, after Trump won, the tourism company received several inquiries from bands in the South. Then, band directors in the Midwest and Northeast got in touch for a chance at what is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many musicians.

    "It's a huge deal to march on the national stage," Wiscombe said.

    Ballou High School's Majestic Marching Knights proudly represented in D.C. in President Barack Obama's second inaugural parade, Jan. 20, 2013.
    Photo credit: NBC Washington

    Like in D.C., many school bands in the surrounding counties opted not to apply to participate in Trump's inauguration. No bands in Arlington County or Prince George's County public schools applied, according to district representatives. A Montgomery County schools spokeswoman did not have information available.

    News4 learned on Thursday that Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia -- about 15 miles southwest of D.C. -- applied to participate in the parade. A Fairfax County schools spokesman had previously said he was not aware of any bands that applied.

    Local universities also did not apply. University of Maryland, College Park, which played in 2013, did not apply. Neither did Bowie State University or University of the District of Columbia.

    The Lesbian and Gay Band Assocation, which included the D.C. group Different Drummers, also opted to skip Trump's inaugural parade. The association played in Obama's second inaugural parade but did not to apply this year because of political and safety concerns.

    "While the parade route itself should be a safe zone, we cannot hope to guarantee our safety while traveling, while rehearsing in public or while out and about in the D.C. area during the weekend," the band's board of directors said in a statement. "All minorities are at risk and any opportunity we give the new administration to co-opt a minority organization will likely be exploited to our detriment."

    The majority of voters in the D.C. area cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton, with Trump winning 4 percent in D.C., 8 percent in Prince George's County, 17 percent in Arlington County and 29 percent in Fairfax County. Many area high school students participated in anti-Trump protests in the wake of the election.

    But politics may not explain the low interest in the inaugural parade; an unwritten rule of the band world may play into why some bands didn't apply. University of Maryland band director Eli Osterloh said that after performing in an inaugural parade, some bands opt to wait about 10 years before applying again, as a courtesy to other applicants.

    Bands are generally notified in mid-December of whether they are invited to play, Wiscombe, of the band trip company, said. Then, communities scramble to fundraise to cover costs that can top $200,000 for a 100-member band to travel across the country.

    If no D.C. bands welcome Trump to the White House, many young musicians from across the country will be eager to take their place.

    "Bands from all over are waiting to get that letter," Kuehnhold said.