Illinois marching band to play inauguration
BOURBONNAIS — Select students from a private Christian university in Kankakee County will be among the first to welcome Donald Trump to the White House later this month.
Olivet Nazarene University's marching band received word just before Christmas that it had been invited to perform in the 2017 Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., news that had one local Olivet alum wishing she hadn't already graduated.
Julia Ryherd, a 2011 graduate of Mahomet-Seymour High and 2015 graduate of the private school located 90 miles north of Champaign, participated in the marching band for a few years in college and called the news "fantastic."
"The implications of this are huge and I'm proud that we've been selected for such a prestigious event," she said. "I hope the members enjoy every moment of it, no matter where their political views fall. This is an honor and they're representing one of the best schools out there and showing off their talent as never before. That's an awesome place to be."
Last year, the school's marching band was invited to participate in the New Year's Eve Festival and Parade in London, which likely put Olivet a head above other inaugural aspirants, university President John Bowling said.
The school's band director, Matthew Stratton, started the application process in late October, before the results of the presidential election were known. While the news of Olivet's participation has received "mixed responses" from students and alumni — some even started a petition asking the university to not attend — Bowling said the band would have participated regardless of who was elected.
"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," Bowling said. "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."