Marching band stands by application to play at Inaugural Parade
In the spring of 2016, the Marist College Marching Band submitted an application to participate in this January’s Presidential Inauguration Parade. If selected by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the band will be invited to follow the president and vice president elects down Pennsylvania Avenue preceding their swearing-in ceremonies. While the band still awaits the status of their application, unforeseen implications have emerged due to the victory of president-elect Donald Trump, one of the most polarizing presidential nominees in American history.
While working on their application last spring, the band had “little reason” to believe the parade would be honoring Donald Trump. By the end of the semester, Trump had not yet secured the Republican primary position and was even farther away from winning the Nov. 8 election. However, Greg Cannon, Marist’s Chief Public Affairs Officer, explained that the election results would not have had an effect on their decision to apply.
“It is in no way a political act, as the application would have been submitted regardless of who was being inaugurated,” Cannon stated.
However, some students believe that even if the school’s intentions are apolitical, they would be condoning the negative attitudes surrounding Trump’s campaign by attending the inauguration. “Whether they say they are non-partisan or not, it would inevitably be a stance that Marist will take,” said Darriel McBride, one of the student leaders of the Marist Unity Project, a student movement that aims to raise awareness about the importance of unity and equality on campus. “That stance will be very clear to others and be very hard to justify and interpret as something positive,” she said.
The chances of being selected are very slim. The committee for President Obama’s 2013 inauguration selected 62 of the 2,700 bands that applied. With these same odds, Marist has a 2.5 percent chance of acceptance. On the off chance that Marist is selected, however, traveling to D.C. would be completely optional for anyone opposed.
With this important decision ahead of them, the band began holding town hall style meetings after the election to discuss student concerns and how to move forward. Band member Kenny Marples estimated that about 20 to 30 out of 100 students are still “on the fence.” For personal and political reasons, they do not want to perform in association with president-elect Trump.
“I respected [the students’] point of view,” said Band Director Arthur (Art) Himmelberger. Politics aside, he explained that he ultimately wants what is best for the band and for Marist. “I just want to be sure that our organizations have credentials to go forward, and a great credential for the band would be to perform in the 2017 presidential election,” he said.
Such a monumental event with such extensive media coverage would be invaluable publicity for participants and for the school, so for Himmelberger and the majority of band members, participation in the parade is not indicative of their support for any one party or candidate.
“The inauguration ceremony isn’t about celebrating one person being elected,” agreed another band member, Mike Morrow. “It’s about a celebration of democracy and, you know, a peaceful transfer of power.”
However, what is best for band members may not align with what is best for other members of the student body, particularly for minorities that have felt attacked by the platform and rhetoric of the president-elect. To some students, the band’s decision sets a precedent for the type of behavior that Marist will tolerate, in line with the school’s decision to play Duke in a basketball game this past fall and its noncommittal reaction to the racial attacks on campus following Trump’s election.
“By performing at Trump’s inauguration, Marist is telling its marginalized students, or any student at all who does not stand with Trump’s ideology, that they do not care about our opinions or our struggles in the wake of his presidency,” said Marist Unity Project founder Riana Ramirez. “Whether they intend to or not, Marist will from then on be associated with Trump.”
The Marist administration had to approve the band’s original application for the parade and continues to look at this situation positively. When asked if this opportunity is worth making students feel marginalized, Greg Cannon responded saying, “Yeah. I wouldn’t want to assume how people might react to something, but I’m just saying that if people raised those concerns that we would, as a college, seek to reassure them that it is not a political act.” He added, “It is about the band having an opportunity to play music for a national audience.”
The marching band may not find out the status of their application to play at inauguration until January. In the meantime, members have been instructed to prepare as if they are going and come back from break early.↑ Back to top