University of Delaware drumline gets unique honor at Biden inauguration

“This is off-the-charts.” University of Delaware drummers will be one of the few live performances in Biden’s stripped-down inaugural parade.

Members of the University of Delaware drumline practice in preparation for their performance in the stripped down inaugural parade for UD alum Joe Biden. (courtesy UDel)

Members of the University of Delaware drumline practice in preparation for their performance in the stripped down inaugural parade for UD alum Joe Biden. (courtesy UDel)

Blue Hen football fans will hear a few familiar refrains echoing off buildings in Washington, D.C. as the University of Delaware drumline helps escort Joe Biden to his new home at the White House following the inauguration.

While being selected to perform in the inaugural parade is always an honor, this year’s performance is even more special. Not only will the drummers accompany a UD alum to the White House for the first time, they’ll be one of just two civilian groups participating in the parade in person.

“This is off-the-charts,” said band director Heidi Sarver. As band members made final preparations for their performance Monday, she urged them to really drink in this historic experience. “All you need to worry about is drumming and taking a moment to look around and say, ‘This is cool and we’re part of the what really incredibly historic inauguration in so many different ways.’”

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UD’s drumline crew includes about 35 members playing snare drums, tenor drums, bass drums, and cymbals along with four drum majors. They’ll join the drumline from Howard University, honoring Howard alum VP-elect Kamala Harris.

“It is a tremendous honor,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “We are excited to share our UD pride with the world, and we will all be cheering on our students as they help celebrate this amazing milestone for a fellow Blue Hen.”

The 35-member drumline includes some first-year UD students as well as a few recent alumni. The team has some history performing at events celebrating Biden. The full band performed at the 2009 inauguration for President Obama when Biden became the first Delawarean to become vice president. They also helped welcome Biden back to Delaware in a grand ceremony eight years later. The UD band was also a part of the 1969 inaugural parade for Richard Nixon.

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Band leaders got a call in late December from the Presidential Inauguration Committee, letting them know that they might get the gig. That booking was officially confirmed earlier this month. “At that point it’s like, ‘Okay, compartmentalize all the excitement. You have a lot of work to do,’” Sarver said.

With threats against the inauguration following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, she said there are some underlying concerns, but the group is staying focused on nailing their performance. “No one’s voicing concerns openly,” she said. “They know that we’re going to do everything possible to keep them safe. They’ve been all watching TV, of course, so they know the security is absolutely beyond impressive.”

The inaugural performance could be a good warm-up for the band to return to the football field in the coming weeks. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, UD’s football season was moved from the fall to the spring. The team’s first game is against Maine on March 6.

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