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Howard University Marching Band Thrilled About Participation in Inaugural Parade

  • Chung-wei Hsu

A record-breaking 1,400 marching bands from around the nation applied to perform at Tuesday's Presidential inaugural parade. Among the more than 80 bands selected is Howard University's "Show Time" marching band. The band, which represents one of the most prestigious African-American universities, is known for its theatrical choreography and flashy style.

John Newson has been waiting anxiously by the phone since early December. He is the music director of Howard University's "Show time" marching band. "After the election we went through the process of submitting our application," he explained. "The only thing I could do was hope and pray we get selected."

A week before Christmas, he received the call.

He learned then that "Show time" is one of the 80 marching bands selected to participate in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.

That same afternoon, Janay Johnson and Franklin Nesmith received the good news.

"I was like wow, it's official," Johnson said. "I was super excited."

"My mother called me, she didn't know we'd been chosen yet," Nesmith said. "And she actually thought we didn't get selected, and I told her, 'well, I am in the parade!' "

As members of one of the nation's most prestigious college marching bands, Janay and Franklin are no strangers to the limelight. But even seasoned veterans like them are overwhelmed with excitement.

"It's something I know I am going to remember forever," Nesmith added. "It's definitely a memory I can pass on to my kids and grand kids."

"It's kind of like an inauguration fever around here, everybody was so excited," Johnson exclaimed.

For John Newson, who grew up during the days of segregation in the 1950s, the inauguration of the first African American president is more than just an exciting event -- it is history in the making.

"It touches me in more ways than one mainly because of the things that I had to go through growing up in the deep South...riding on the bus, you sit straight in the back, and that list continues on," Newson said. "It has a special extra meaning for me in regard to the fact that we had made it to this point."

And he wonders if his students understand the historical significance of this inauguration.

"I think it takes on a different meaning to them. Their parents, grandparents have told them about it, but when you lived it," Newson says, "it's a whole different story."

But John may have underestimated his students. Since the selection announcement, the 150 plus members band have voluntarily practiced four hours every day to perfect the new routine.

"It's a moment of pride just be able to look at someone of your own and say you know it's possible, look where we've been and look at where we can go," Johnson recalls. "For me, it just kind of reaffirms that the opportunities are limitless in this country, there is no excuse, the sky is the limit."

"Honestly to me it means that all the excuses are out the window," Nesmith said. "Especially for people constantly trying to play the race card, you know unjustifiably. All the excuses are gone, there is no reason you can't be what you want to be."

Known for its colorful and flamboyant performances, the spotlight will inevitably be on Show Time on the day of the parade. And that's just how they like it.

"Proud, all the way, that probably sums it up the most for me," Johnson said.

"We feel like anything we're going to be a part of we are going to take a lot of pride in it," Nesmith said. "And we're going to work real hard for."

And they'll honor this historic event by doing what they know best, marching and celebrating "Show time" style.

"Not only are we glad to be a part of it, but we want to make an outstanding presentation in front of the whole world...as the world sees it, they will say this is Howard University," Newson said.

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