What do Hamilton, a clothing drive, 140 band members, and an Inaugural Parade all have in common? The answer is, more than you would think.
A considerable amount of controversy has been circulating throughout the Olivet community since news of the Olivet Tiger Marching Band’s participation in the Presidential Inaugural Parade was announced. However, the marching band has remained united and focused through it all, and will be representing Olivet in D.C. on Jan. 20.
Many have expressed the opinion via social media that Olivet should not participate in the Parade because doing so would “demonstrate solidarity with the beliefs of the President-elect.”
Dr. Matthew Stratton, director for athletic bands, stated that although he was initially “saddened” by the negative backlash, he believes that this parade is a wonderful opportunity.
“[The parade] will be remembered as a tremendous honor for the students and for the university, and we are excited and thrilled to be able to represent our state and our country in this time-honored tradition,” Stratton said.
The band was notified through e-mail over Christmas break about their acceptance into the parade. A freshman member of the band, Kayla Smock, sees this opportunity as a once in a lifetime chance, and believes that the rest of the band also feels excited.
The negativity surrounding this circumstance has originated from outside the band. For instance, some alums created an online petition for Olivet to withdraw from the parade. Initially, Smock said that she felt like the backlash was never going to end. She believes that the turning point came in the form of a mass email sent to all Olivet students from Dr. John Bowling, who wrote that Olivet’s involvement was not an endorsement of any party or elected official.
“The inauguration of a new president is not a political event, but a civic ceremony honoring the office of the president and involving every branch of government. It is an honor to represent the University and the State of Illinois on a national stage. This selection reflects our band’s long hours of preparation and hard work and provides a wonderful, rare opportunity for our students to see firsthand the peaceful transition of government,” Bowling said in the email.
Stratton affirmed this statement by saying that a different election result would absolutely not have changed Olivet’s stance about participation in the parade.
“This is a ceremony for our country,” Stratton said.
He referenced One Last Time from Hamilton, and how it speaks about the peaceful transition of power from one President to another. In the song, Washington desires to “talk about neutrality”, “warn against partisan fighting,” and most importantly “teach them how to say goodbye.”
“I thought it was another way of God, just kind of talking about how Olivet will have a presence, and we’ll be good, and a light in this situation,” Stratton said.
Members of the band refer to themselves as a family, and even those who have “politely declined” to participate “said it was a tough decision and they were torn because they wanted to support the band,” Stratton said.
“As a band, we’re still a family,” Smock said. “We still want to go, we still want to work together in order to make this opportunity a success, but within families, there’s disagreements, so we don’t all have the same opinions, but we’re not shoving that at each other, we’re just uniting again as a family and going forth with that same mentality—that we need to work together in order to make this a success, despite being different.”
Smock went on to say that she expects Olivet’s reputation to be affected positively as it is showing support for our country when many other schools and individual artists have declined to participate in the parade.
Until Jan. 19 the band will be collecting new or gently used hats, gloves, and scarves, and socks, which they will donate to local charities in Washington, D.C., in the lobby of Larsen. According to Stratton, this “Hands and Feet of God” initiative was started when the band traveled to London for the New Year’s Day parade in 2016.
“The ONU Tiger Marching Band will always seek to be a part of the communities that we visit beyond music and performance,” Stratton said.
— Cassie Appleton, Assistant News Editor