WASHINGTON – The Baltimore Marching Ravens may not know yet if they are headed to Tampa, Fla., for Super Bowl XXXV, but they do know they will be making the trip to Washington for Presidential Inauguration LIV.
The all-volunteer band, which performs at Ravens home games and Maryland parades and events, was chosen last week by the Presidential Inaugural Committee after a year of applications and a videotaped try-out.
“We represent the spirit of the state of Maryland,” said band president John Ziemann. “We represent all walks of life, and we show that the volunteer spirit of America is still very much alive.”
The band is one of three Maryland groups scheduled to march in the parade for the 54th inaugural, along with the Blue Knights Motorcycle Unit of Maryland, a non-profit fraternal police organization, and the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
The selection is a first for the Marching Ravens. The band was invited once before — back when it was the Baltimore Colts Marching Band — to perform at the second inaugural of President Nixon and his vice president, former Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew. But Colts owner Robert Irsay refused to pay to send the team.
Ziemann said the Modell family, which owns the Ravens, has been supportive of the band’s participation in the inaugural and will be providing buses for the 300 band members and staff to go to the District.
The opportunity is a dream come true for Ziemann, who joined the band in 1962 and has been president since 1984. He decided to apply for this year’s inaugural parade back in December 1999 and recruited friend and band supporter Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, who wrote letters and put in a good word for the band.
“John is an old friend,” Ehrlich said. “It’s guys like this who make a town — who make a town’s tradition.”
Ehrlich said he was excited for the band and planned on spending some time with them on Inauguration Day.
“They gave me a Ravens band jacket with [President-elect George] Bush’s name on it,” Ehrlich said. “I’ll have to figure out a way to get it to the president somehow.”
The band’s participation is the culmination of a concerted effort to give the Marching Ravens more exposure in national events, said Todd Clontz, the band’s associate music director.
Without a group effort and support from the Modell family, marching in the inaugural parade never would have been possible, Clontz said.
“I’m psyched for this,” said Pat O’Hara, trombone player with the band since 1993.
Although he’s not a political person, O’Hara said he looks forward to participating in the pomp and circumstance of a presidential inauguration.
The Ravens band was founded in 1947 as the Baltimore Colts Marching Band. It continued to perform under that name after the Colts moved to Indianapolis, relying mostly on donations.
When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and changed their name to the Ravens, they adopted the Colts band and renamed it Baltimore’s Marching Ravens. The team owns and operates the band, providing uniforms, transportation and some of the instruments. Band members volunteer their time and woodwind instruments.
The band will be playing “America” — known to schoolchildren for its opening line, “My country, ’tis of thee” — along the 16-block parade route that stretches along Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.
Ziemann said the band is still waiting to hear whether it will travel to Tampa for the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.