The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band was the sole representative of the state of Tennessee in the Presidential Inaugural Parade on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
“It’s such a prestigious thing … to be the sole representative from Tennessee,” Gary Sousa, director of bands, said.
The band made its 11th inaugural appearance. It has participated in every inaugural parade since Johnson’s inauguration in 1965.
An inaugural committee selected the 74 groups who will participate in the parade with a rigorous application process, Sousa said. The band’s reputation for skilled performances and ease at performing in front of enormous crowds may have been contributing factors, he said.
The band played its classic fare, such as “Tennessee Waltz” and “Rocky Top.”
Band members said they had to undergo four hours of security checks as part of the procedure.
“They are basically going through and making sure we don’t have any weapons, safety pins or anything that could be of any danger,” Erin King, mellophone player in the band, said.
The security measures were extremely specific, according to tuba player Diane McGhee.
“Nothing can be on the bus but our instruments and us. We have to get off and go through security. Then we have to get back on the bus back on the other side of the still. It is just a lot of making sure everything is alright,” McGhee said.
Despite the tight security procedures, King said the honor of participating made it worth any trouble.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s a pretty big honor to play for the president. I am looking forward to it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” King said.