Marching Bands Compete For Inauguration Gig

Howard University Marching Band

hide captionHoward University's "Showtime" Marching Band is one of the Washington, D.C., area bands under consideration to play during the inauguration.

K. Coles via flickr

One of the fiercest competitions in the country is under way right now. The prize is one of the coveted spots to march in the inaugural parade. Some 1,300 marching bands have battled for a slot to represent the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Already, some of the winners have been announced, but no word yet on who will represent the nation's capital. Washington, D.C., has some of the strongest marching bands in the nation — and they all want to represent their hometown for President-elect Barack Obama.

Ballou Senior High School is one of them. The O-Jay's "Love Train" is new in the band's repertoire — Ballou's director Darrell Watson added it when he heard it at a rally for Obama last year. And his Majestic Marching Knights of Ballou High want badly to play it for the president-elect on Jan. 20. Very badly.

Some outsiders know Ballou High School as a troubled place in the tough southeast area of D.C. A student shot and killed a schoolmate at Ballou four years ago. But inside, the students know Ballou differently. Cheer and friendliness pervade its hallways. The band is headed for next year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Bowl. Now they want to add Jan. 20 to their calendar.

The marching bands in D.C. are intensely competitive, but they're also close-knit. Ask James Perry, director of the marching band at D.C.'s Eastern Senior High School. "Each time we see each other, we try to raise the bar," says Perry. "It's really a joy to have someone like them around because they're great competitors, and also they're great friends."

Eastern is one of Ballou's chief competitors for a spot in the inaugural parade. And that doesn't even count powerhouse Howard University. Their band wants in, too.

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