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Howard University's Marching Band To Perform During Inauguration


When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was on the campaign trail in 2019, she loved entering events with the energy of a drum line.


SHAPIRO: That was in South Carolina in June of 2019. And here she is with another in Las Vegas later that same year.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Kamala. Kamala. Kamala.


Harris is a proud graduate of Howard University, home of the Showtime Marching Band. And tomorrow, shortly after Harris takes the oath of office, she'll be joined by the band's drum line to kick off the virtual inaugural parade called Parade Across America.

SHAPIRO: Kelvin Washington is the band's director. And he says that after Harris was named to the Democratic ticket last August, the band began planning their performance. Except back then, they didn't know if she would be the vice president sworn in in January.

KELVIN WASHINGTON: We had nothing but time. We was online. And we were like, you know, if by chance this happens, this is going to be our one shot. This year, they have, you know, the program face-to-face.

KELLY: So they began prepping. Washington handed out music before Thanksgiving break for the students to memorize. And by January, they were ready to be called up on short notice.

SHAPIRO: On top of that, they had to adapt to the coronavirus. Washington says they had to pare down to a drum line, dancers and flags - no wind instruments, no melodies.

WASHINGTON: I think the toughest part was me finding the words to say, yes, we have been invited - we have been invited, but (laughter) it's only the drum line, and it's, you know, a smaller percentage of the band.

KELLY: They are planning to play cadences written by famous alums of the band, like Cora Coleman. Known by her stage name, C.C. Dunham, she played in Prince's rhythm section for five years and went on to play with Beyonce.

SHAPIRO: But the star of the show will, of course, be Kamala Harris.

WASHINGTON: We hope that she come and participate, at least give us 10 steps in front of the band. I don't know if she's going to be ooh-la-la (ph) flashy (laughter), but we're praying that she would give the kids just that one moment in time where she's in the center of the band and so we could have that photo op too.

KELLY: Well, whether she joins the band for ten steps or not, there is no doubt Harris will receive the best walk-up music a veep could ask for.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUM LINE DRUMMING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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