Friday, March 4, 2011

Remembering Inauguration 2009

Participating in the inaugural parade and celebration every four years is one of the big highlights of being a musician in the Navy Band.

In our YouTube video (embedded below the article), you'll notice that we pass the reviewing stand at around 1737 (that's 5:37 p.m. to our civilian readers). However, our day began much earlier...

Our report time at the historic Sail Loft that morning was 0700.  There were 99 musicians, plus about 10 or so backups, and four officers. Most of the band members were required to sleep at the building the previous night, due to city streets surrounding the Washington Navy Yard being closed for security purposes. I was living within walking distance of the building at that time, so I was exempted from participation in the great Navy Band slumber party of 2009.

I left my home around 0600, and quickly observed that this was not just another average day in Washington. Right outside my door, there was a man selling hot chocolate, and there were already a number of people walking toward the Capitol.

Bundled up, I made my way to the Navy Band building, where a pancake breakfast prepared by our recreation committee awaited. I grabbed a quick bite, and then spent about 20 minutes to preparing and donning my uniform. It was a bitterly cold day, so in addition to my Navy bridge coat, earmuffs, gloves and scarf, I suited up in thermal underwear, doubled up my socks, shoved some hand warmers in my gloves, and inserted a silvery-looking emergency blanket, cut in a circle, into my combination cover (that's the hat that we wear). It was just enough to keep really cold, instead of exceedingly cold.

Over the course of the next few hours, we engaged in various exercises of security and waiting. In the interest of keeping the Secret Service on our good side, I'll fast-forward to the parade.

After waiting in a heated tent and watching some of our new Commander-in-Chief's inaugural address, we received word that it was "time."  It was, in fact, time to form up at the pre-pre-staging area. After an hour, or two, we made it to our actual staging area, which was still about a mile from the start of the parade route. It was here that, thanks to an unfortunate delay, we stood for several hours. The temperature was in the mid-twenties, with winds blowing 10 to 15 mph. Every 40 minutes (so it seemed) the sun would emerge from the clouds to lift our spirits, and then almost immediately retreat back to an overcast sky.

I was playing sousaphone that day (that is a different story altogether) and was joining the rest of the brass players, taking our valves out periodically to shake off all of the ice.

Finally, it was time to march. Everyone blew air through the horns, trying to unfreeze everything. Once the parade started, we played mostly non-stop until the end, in order to keep the instruments from re-freezing.

As you can see in the video, it was dark by the time we reached the reviewing stand. After hours of security, cold and waiting, we marched past the Commander-in-Chief and played four ruffles and flourishes, followed by "Anchors Aweigh."

After boarding the buses, some of the band went straight to several inaugural balls. I was finished for the day, but I enjoyed seeing pictures of my shipmates posing with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Beyonce and Queen Latifa, among others.

It's one of the great privileges of our job that we can to participate in our country's peaceful transition of power. We've participated in 21 inaugurations, thus far, and look forward to many more.

Musician 1st Class Adam Grimm is a saxophonist in the Concert/Ceremonial Band, as well as serving as the Navy Band's public relations manager.

DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Meneguin, U.S. Air Force/Released.  Video courtesy of C-Span.

1 comment:

Altissimo Recordings said...

I love the video! I can't wait to see what you guys have in store next month!