VMI Band Prepares For Inauguration Parade

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It's one of the more impressive displays you'll see -- 1,500 VMI cadets all marching to the beat of the same drum. As they moved along the Parade Ground last Friday, their commanders were standing close by, scrutinizing every detail.

"Everyone wants to look good," said Russell East, Regimental S5 Captain at VMI. "Everybody wants to make sure they're in step, that they're carrying their rifles the right way. The officers want to make sure their sabers are at the right angles. That's our biggest focus right now is to hang on to those little details."

That's because Monday afternoon, they'll all be marching right by the President and Vice President. They were selected by the Presidential Inaugural Committee from a pool of more than 2,800 applications to perform in the Inaugural Parade.

"It's amazing," said Heather Chichura, a VMI cadet and member of the Regimental Band. "It's hard to comprehend because I've never done anything like it before. So we're all just really excited."

"My first thought was we're going to have a lot of work to do," said Stephen Hartnett, a VMI cadet and Drum Major of the Regimental Band.

The VMI Regimental Band and the rest of the corps first learned they had been selected to perform in the parade while they were on winter break. Since they didn't return to Lexington until last Monday, they only got one week to get ready.

"Your heart's pounding," said Tessa Schlicting, a VMI cadet and member of the Regimental Band. "You're nervous but excited, you're hoping not to make a mistake, and you hope you get your notes right.

But ready, they say they are -- not just to perform for their Commander-in-Chief, but to take their place in a long standing VMI tradition. This Inauguration marks the 14th time, dating all the way back to 1909, that cadets from VMI have marched in the Inaugural Parade.

"VMI is based on tradition," said Zaquero Harnett, a VMI cadet and Drum Major of the Regimental Band. "It's really cool that we're going to be part of a long line of cadets that have gotten to march for an Inaugural Parade. So it feels good to be a part of something big at VMI."

While they're confident they'll represent their school and Virginia well, they admit it's going to be tough to keep their excitement and nerves in check when they march by the Presidential Review Stand.

"I'm going to be feeling 'please don't drop the mace,'" said Hartnett. "We have to do a spin for the salute and that's what's going to be going through my mind. I really don't want to drop the mace on national television."

The band will perform two songs during the Parade: their fight song, "VMI Spirit," and a favorite of theirs, "Shenandoah."


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