This article originally written by WJBR intern, Elyse DiPisa. DiPisa is a sophomore Media Communications student at the University of Delaware from Montgomery County, PA. Along with being a Digital Content Intern for WJBR, Elyse also works for the university’s Student Television Network 49 News Program and as a tour guide for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
The University of Delaware Marching Band Drumline had the once in a lifetime opportunity of performing at President Joe Biden’s Inauguration this year.
On January 4th, 2021, the UD Marching Band’s invitation to the presidential event was confirmed and the band began recruiting students for the performance. Assistant Professor of Music and Assistant Director of the Marching Band, James Ancona, told WJBR the difficulty that came with recruiting students from the 2019 drumline, who had not played in over a year because of Coronavirus.
“Once we started recruiting, students had 48 hours to fill out Secret Service paperwork, get pictures done, and get COVID tests. All of the things that had to happen before we got to the first rehearsal were monumental,” Ancona said.
The group consisted of alumni and recent graduates, as well as the 2019 members of the drumline. UD sophomore Andrew Ahlborn, bass drum player for the band, said that the marching band had been asked to perform in Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Inauguration in 2008. Due to the pandemic, the attendee list this year had to decrease in order to ensure health safety.
Preparation was increasingly more rigorous than in typical seasons, with the addition of a time crunch as well as the added layer of the pandemic.
“We were on campus for only 4 days in advance,” said Ahlborn. “We had 12-14 hours days to rehearse; there was a lot of speeding up the process.” Ahlborn explained that prior to a typical season, the band is preparing pieces weeks in advance, but this was not the case for this occasion.
Although it was an exciting time for all involved, UD sophomore and snare drum player Samantha Haas explained her slight hesitations before going to Washington, D.C. for the national event.
“Considering a week before [the inauguration] there was the incident at the capital, and it was very scary. Theoretically, something could have happened, but seeing all the military was nice, and getting screened by the Secret Service was interesting.”
Haas explained the level of security surrounding the Inauguration before the start of the event and the lining of the streets with security while the band marched. She said with the political climate of the world at the time, it was disconcerting.
Once in D.C. on the day of the inauguration, the band had to go through Secret Service to get gear checked and credentials checked. The students explained that there were hand sanitizer stations throughout and they were handed out N-95 masks. Much of their time in D.C. at the event was spent on the busses, as they were instructed to stay put until it was time to rehearse and to perform.
“The position we were in of escorting the president to the White House in front of his motorcade was usually reserved for the Guard, and they allowed us to be the group to do that, and that was pretty cool,” said Assistant Director Ancona. “It was surreal. The sun was starting to come down as we got onto Pennsylvania Avenue, so it was perfect lighting on the White House.” Ancona explained the power the moment had as he watched the drumline march, President Biden 100 feet behind them, as the military lined the street and saluted them.
Samantha Haas said she could not put into words the incredible feeling of performing as representative of the president’s alma mater.
“I was seeing the White House as a representative of my university and I was drumming. It was amazing.”