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.
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.
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.
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 Fairfax County schools spokesman was not aware of any schools that had applied, and a Montgomery County schools spokeswoman did not have information available.
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.