UAPB on parade | Arkansas Blog

UAPB on parade

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The UAPB band, otherwise known as the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South, or M4, got some good exposure while I was watching the inaugural parade on CNN yesterday.

Here's a feel-good piece on the band and its vibrant director, John Graham Jr., from a higher education publication. The band raised $200,000 in two weeks to make the trip after belatedly getting word it had made the parade cut.

Throughout the fall, the band recorded performances for its application, which was due in October. "The whole semester was spent in hopes that we would make it to D.C.," said Audrey Thomas, a senior tuba player.

A week before the presidential election, the band formed "V-O-T-E" on the field at Pine Bluff's football game against Southern University and A&M College, in Baton Rouge, La. The weekend after the election, the M4 spelled "O-B-A-M-A" at home against Grambling State University, to a standing ovation.

Then, in early December, Mr. Graham heard that the band had been rejected from the parade. He responded by rejecting that news. "I told the gentleman, 'Go back and talk to your people,'" Mr. Graham said. He urged elected officials, including Arkansas's governor, to plead the band's case to the inaugural committee, as he did to the news media. He argued that students from the Lower Mississippi Delta region, one of the country's poorest areas, may not make it to Washington otherwise. He emphasized the importance of the large band at an institution of 3,000 students. He mentioned the slave graveyard on Pine Bluff's campus.

On New Year's Eve, an inaugural-committee representative called to tell him his band was in the parade.

And, thanks to JD, the band in action.

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