Norwich University Regimental Band participates in inaugural parade in Washington, DC

NU color guard, inaugural paradeThe Norwich University Regimental Band participated in George W. Bush's Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, DC, on January 20th. The 70-member band, under the direction of Lt. Col. James Bennett, is the oldest collegiate military band in the nation, dating back to 1819.

The Inaugural Parade dates back to the very first presidential inauguration, when George Washington took oath of office on April 30, 1789 in New York City. As he began his journey from Mount Vernon to New York, local militias joined the procession as it passed through towns along the way. Today, the 1.7-mile parade follows a route from Capitol Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The procession consists of over 125 bands and marching units consisting of approximately 11,000 participants representing most of the fifty states, and lasts two hours.

Lt. Col. Bennett, who serves as Director of Music at Norwich, said that the University's band was formed when the school was founded in 1819. "Over the years, we have performed in many inaugural parades, including, in recent years, those held for John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. Bush," Bennett said.

Despite the past invitations, Bennett said that it is always a thrill to be selected to participate in the event. "It is a very competitive selection process. We were chosen from over 1,000 applications, and, to the best of my knowledge, we were the only unit invited from Vermont," Bennett said. The Norwich band played several standard marches during the procession, culminating with the F.E. Bigelow composition, "Our Director" when they passed the White House reviewing stand.

Bennett said that the regimental band has played in several St. Patrick Day parades in New York City, the Patriots' Day parades in Boston, and has even opened the season for the Red Sox in Fenway Park.

"While all of those events have been exciting, the Inaugural Parade was a very special occasion," Bennett said. "We participated in a parade that only happens once every four years. It is a historically significant event, and Norwich University was honored to be able to take part in it."