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President Obama’s Visit: A Band Perspective

So usually this blog is about sports in one way or another, but as the tagline suggests, “whatever else comes to mind” is also an option.

As a member of the Michigan Marching Band over the last four years, I have had some pretty cool opportunities and have met some awesome people. However, none of those past experiences compared to this past Friday, January 27.

Warning: Possibly excessive gloating/horn-tooting ahead

President Obama visited campus, and the basketball band was asked to show up and play for the crowd at Al Glick Fieldhouse. While thousands of students waited in the cold overnight for tickets, my fellow bandmates and I received our tickets at the door and avoided the whole mess. There was no wait outside to get into Glick, and seating was not a problem (although we were in the very back).

The events leading up to the ceremony were fun too. We played intermittently before media/White House people told us to stop for whatever reasons. Following our short “sets,” media members usually came up to us and asked us questions, both on and off the record. Some were interviewed for local papers/TV shows. Some (including me) were interviewed for larger media outlets like USA Today, although I still haven’t found out if I was actually quoted. Some had their picture taken and tweeted by the White House staff. The novelty of the band is gone to a lot of us and a lot of people around us, so it was cool to have a large group of people surrounding us again.

We were asked to stop playing at 9 am, when the ceremony was set to start. People came up on stage, ran tests, placed the presidential seal on the podium, and before long, student leaders were making their opening remarks to introduce the president. Then, for the second time in my four years at Michigan, President Obama took the stage to address a large group of Michigan students.

The crowd took scores of pictures. Fans screamed his name as he took his place behind the podium. Once the crowd died down, the president greeted his audience, talked about Michigan football and basketball (including a shoutout to Denard Robinson), and gave an emphatic “Go Blue!”

As for the actual speech, his remarks centered on higher eduction, funding, and fairness. More taxes for the wealthy, easily affordable higher education, and a commitment to creating more jobs in the U.S. and specifically the state of Michigan. Much of his speech echoed his State of the Union from a few nights prior, but it added a more personal touch to see him address a group of college students.

While this was happening (and this was the cool band part), a representative of the White House came up to a few band members and said that the president would sign a few items after his speech. The drummer placed an extra drum head in a pile, which soon included an MMB baseball hat and multiple pieces of music. When she returned, she said that the president would only sign three things: the drum head, the hat, and one piece of music, which happened to be my girlfriend’s Euphonium part to “The Victors.”

Overall, cool day. Exposure is always a plus. I also got another chance to get pictures of the president on my camera; a memory card formatting error (read: I’m an idiot and formatted my card after Commencement two years ago) deleted my past Obama pictures, and I was grateful to get a second opportunity.

Was it worth staying up until 3 am playing Wii Jeopardy with my roommate? Yes. Was it worth waking up at 5:20 on a Friday morning? Definitely. Was it worth rescheduling an important job interview to see the president speak again? Absolutely.

This will be something that I will never forget. I may not have had this opportunity without my involvement in the Michigan band program. For all the stress it may cause me, I’m really lucky to be a member of such a cool organization.

  1. Stephanie
    February 1, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    It’s really amazing how many opportunities open up when you’re part of the marching band or the pep band. One of my favorite perks about band is how often I feel like a VIP at special events.

    It sounds like an amazing experience. I’m glad you got to be a part of it.

    Good luck with that job interview!

    • February 2, 2012 at 2:02 am

      No kidding… I feel like I’m in some inside group of the university, and we know things/have things that others don’t… which I guess is partially true. We do get a lot of access to certain things, and we definitely get VIP treatment at a lot of places. Such a cool organization.

      Thanks for the support! The interview was on Monday, and I think I did all right, I’ll know in a few days if I get another. Even if I don’t get the job, it was totally worth it.

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