One day remains before Columbus North High School’s marching band makes its way down Pennsylvania Avenue as part of the inauguration parade for President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
The high school, Pence’s alma mater, was asked to march in the Jan. 20 inauguration parade in late December, so the band members have had a limited time to practice their songs and marching to perfection.
Director of bands William Stultz and State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, were two key players in getting the band to the parade.
Smith said he and Stultz were acquainted through who they knew at a local church. Stultz asked Smith, who knows Pence, if he would consider asking the vice president-elect if the band could join the inauguration parade. Smith said he agreed and used an opportunity at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, to speak with Pence about the band.
“Mike just lit up from ear to ear,” Smith said. “He said, ‘That would be great. Make it happen.’”
Smith said he then realized significant fundraising would be necessary to get the band to the capital because the trip costs $625 per student and per chaperone.
“I hate raising money,” Smith said. “I just don’t like doing that at all.”
But when he knew he would need to cover $125,000 to pay for about 200 band members and staff, he went to work. Two weeks after he began fundraising in December, Smith said he had $110,000 pledged from donors.
The band also had to work quickly. It had less than a month to prepare for the march. Stultz, who has been a band director with the school for 26 years, said the lack of time wasn’t a worry for the band members.
“We have an awesome band program,” Stultz said.
The band’s reputation for excellence has resulted in invitations to march at prestigious events such as the Rose Bowl parades in the past, Stultz said, so most students were already prepared to be in the spotlight.
The invitation to the inauguration was the most prestigious invitation the program has ever received and the decision to join the parade was apolitical, he said.
“We’re not looking at it as supporting any candidate,” Stultz said. “We’re looking at it as a historical chance.”
Smith said the band has since been invited by an inauguration committee to play in front of it on Jan. 18 and CNN and Fox News will be recording footage.
“Now I have to go raise an additional $17,000 dollars today,” Smith said.
The band left Jan. 18 and will return on Jan. 22. Songs the band will play as it marches in the parade include “America the Beautiful,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and a drumline cadence.