Education

High School Bands Join the March To Bush Inauguration

By Darcia Harris Bowman — January 17, 2001 3 min read
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The Mighty Bull Dogs of Midland High School are coming to Washington to see that one of their own is ushered into the White House with the sweet sounds of Texas ringing in his ears.

As the parade marking the 54th presidential inauguration makes its way down Pennsylvania Avenue this Saturday, 187 of the students in the marching band from President-elect Bush’s adopted Texas hometown plan to be in the lineup, trumpeting tunes like “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Red River Valley,” and “The Eyes of Texas.”

But pulling together a perfect performance hasn’t been easy. The Midland High School band didn’t receive its official invitation to the quadrennial celebration until Jan. 3. Since then, students, parents, teachers, and community members have been scurrying to raise the $1,000 per student needed to make the trip. And the band has been using every spare minute to practice.

“I feel like I’m in a blender right now trying to get everything done,” Gary Doherty, Midland High’s band director, said last week. “This is a 24-hour-a-day proposition.”

Such is the case for many of the student groups that have been asked to participate in the Jan. 20 festivities. Just as the final word on who would succeed President Clinton came much later than usual for a presidential election, so, too, did formal invitations to Inauguration Day. But organizers are optimistic that all the details will come together.

“I would say, with a few hitches, we’re running as smoothly as these celebrations ever have,” said Natalie Rule, a spokeswoman for the inaugural committee. “We kind of blew in here a little later than usual, but the process was already rolling.”

Heart of Texas

Of all the student groups slated to perform in the inaugural celebration for the 43rd president, the musicians from Midland are sure to stand out, given that Mr. Bush spent part of his childhood in the West Texas city and attended Midland Freshman High School.

But the Mighty Bull Dogs aren’t the only ones hoping to represent the 20,000-student Midland Independent School District in the inaugural parade; some 250 students from Robert E. Lee High School’s Rebels marching band plan to join them in their musical tribute to Texas.

“Everyone’s been holding their breath and hoping this would happen,” Lee High band director Randy Storie said.

This will be the Robert E. Lee band’s third performance in honor of a Republican president’s inauguration. The Rebels were there in 1985 to celebrate the beginning of President Reagan’s second term, and they performed again in 1989 at the request of President George Bush, the new president’s father.

While three of the 20 high school bands invited to this year’s celebration hail from Texas, the committee took care to invite student groups from a wide range of states—regardless of which presidential candidate they supported—in keeping with the day’s theme, “Celebrating America’s Spirit Together.”

A magnet school choir from Louisville, Ky., received the honor this year of being the only student group asked to take part in the president-elect’s swearing-in ceremony. The duPont Manual High School’s Youth Performing Arts Choir was recommended to Mr. Bush by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a Manual High alumnus and the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

In addition to having won numerous awards for its performances, the choir has sung twice at Carnegie Hall in New York City and completed a concert tour of Central Europe last spring with performances in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria.

Manual High’s vocal music teacher, David Brown, said his students were well on their way to meeting their fund-raising goal and were preparing to fill their 10 minutes in the ceremony with the strains of “America the Beautiful” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” among other arrangements.

“I am tired, but that’s fine,” said Mr. Brown, who plans to retire this year. “It’s been quite a ride—we’ve been on television and in the newspapers. The community suddenly knows our school is here.”

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A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2001 edition of Education Week as High School Bands Join the March To Bush Inauguration

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