Much like the entire 2016 election process, the upcoming presidential inauguration ceremony on January 20th is not without controversy. Many prominent artists who have been invited to perform have vocally spoken out against performing at President-elect Trump’s inauguration. Some of these artists include Elton John, John Legend, and Idina Menzel. However, among the list of performers who have agreed to play is one college marching band that was completely unexpected.
The Talladega College Tornado Marching Band, also known as The Great Tornado, agreed to perform at the upcoming inauguration as a sign of unity. The college’s president Billy Hawkins stated that the decision came from a place of honor and unity rather than politics. “We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power,” he stated.
As expected, many were not too happy with the decision. Several protests and petitions have formed in order to try to prevent the band from performing at the event. The current band members are divided themselves, with some seeing this as a performance opportunity that should not be passed up, while others feel that they should have the choice to opt out.
Freshman Jerome Haynes who is a member of the drumline stated that he does not believe politics should stand in the way of the exciting opportunity for the band. Alternatively, sophomore Ronald Peterson, also a drumline member, says he would like to stay home. He said, “I feel that those who are not Republicans should not have to play for it.” Meanwhile, senior and drum major Antonio Phillips says, “we are musicians, so this is a good platform for us to showcase out talent in front of the world.”
Dr. Harvey maintains that the band’s performance will be a symbolic and historic representation of the country’s traditions. “The college and its band are celebrating the peaceful transition of power. A hallmark of America’s democracy and swearing in of a new president.”
Hampton University President William R. Harvey, a Talladega alum, supported Dr. Harvey’s decision. “It will be a wonderful learning experience for the students in the band. It will be a teachable moment for them to understand the importance of supporting the leader of the free world, despite one’s political viewpoint. After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance a political agenda,” he stated.