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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.

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11 Comments

  1. The most practical argument for is the most specious. Doing good for the national status of the band? I would say make a political statement in line with your values, if accepted.

  2. Alicia Walker '91
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    As an alumni in social work, it makes me proud that students have organized a Unity Project and questioning instead of just blindly following.

  3. Sophia Yannis
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    Awesome! So proud that the Hudson Valley will be represented at the inauguration. Bravo, Marist!!!

  4. Susan Riley
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    I am very disappointed in Marist college’s decision to support the sexist, discriminatory, and unethical election of Donald Trump by performing at the inauguration. I’m sure you’re going to lose a ton of alumni support and donations – rightfully so!

  5. mimi danas
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    I think it is an honor to play at Trump’s inauguration. Marist should be proud!

  6. Maria Hanos
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    I think it is a wonderful opportunity for the Marist Band to play at the Presidential Inauguration! This is an honor and has nothing to do with who’s side one is on politically! People should move on and should not display this kind of bias and hatred, our political process has selected a President and we should now move on. Good luck and I hope Marist is selected!

  7. Thomas W Ryan
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    As a dad of a student I dont think
    It in the best light for Marist to play at this event.

  8. Henry Bayard
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    As a Marist alumni I stand against Marist band participating in the inauguration parade. Trump stands against both Catholic and Marist values. Publicity does trump values!

  9. This will be portrayed by Trump as a political act. If you look at the groups that will be marching, listed online as of today, the Marist Band would be the only band from NY that is not part of a fire dept or a police dept. With no offense intended, and never having heard the band, this may have entered into the band’s selection. I am only one person, of course, but I will never support any endeavor by Marist if the band marches. I regard the member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who resigned in protest as a hero and when history looks back on this time I believe that she will be regarded as such.

  10. James Andrew
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    As a Marist Alumni I wholeheartedly support the band’s right to march in the Inauguration parade, they applied before the election and are trying to avoid sinking to the corrupt depths that were desperately sought by the losing side in this campaign. It’s amazing Bernie Sanders an endorser of a corrupt, murderous, unsuccessful ideology like Socialism is celebrated and invited on the campus, but the Marist Band’s decision, before the election, is attacked by the same left wing when they attempt to stay above the fray.

  11. Max Swell
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    Trump does represent what Marist stands for, and that’s a good thing. If the sensitive young people (and professors) who can’t respect opinions that are different from theirs wish to not attend the inauguration, they might as well leave the college too- academic settings are meant to weigh are respect all opinions, not just one. Oh and the “Unity Project” was exactly what the Women’s March in DC on the 21st is: a protest of Trump’s values without saying his name. The post-it notes put up by “concerned” Marist students in their Unity Project were divisive, not uniting by any means!

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