Six University of South Carolina School of Music alumni had key roles in the United States Presidential Inauguration last week. Clarinetist Cheryl Ani (1995 B.M., performance), flutist Robert Aughtry (1990 B.M., performance, 1994 master’s, music) vocalist Stacey Holliday (2010 master’s, music), flutist James Miller (2007 B.M., performance), trombonist Katie Thigpen (2007 B.M., performance) and trombonist Andrew Reich (2005 B.M., performance) are military musicians in the United States Air Force or Army.
During the inauguration, Aughtry and Miller performed with the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” and Thigpen played with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. Reich performed with the Air Force Ceremonial Brass that was part of the ceremony marking President Trump’s final departure from the White House.
Holliday and Ani contributed to the inauguration festivities in other roles. Ani served in the role of Ceremonial Band Operations, handling logistics, personnel and scheduling for the U.S. Army Band’s “Pershing’s Own.” Ani performed with the band in the 2017 inauguration, so this time “it was strange to not be performing,” she says.
As a vocalist in the U.S. Air Force’s Singing Sergeants, Holliday got the chance to serve in an honorary role in the inauguration rehearsal, standing in for Vice President Kamala Harris. She was nominated for the honor, then chosen for the role after nominees were interviewed.
“It was truly one of the best experiences so far in my Air Force career,” Holliday says. “Riding in the motorcade, raising my right hand to swear the oath and paying respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are all moments that I will treasure forever.”
Thigpen recalled Inauguration Day, including a special moment with host Tom Hanks during a break at the inauguration celebration concert.
“It’s truly an incredible honor to stand with my colleagues in the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and perform for historical events in our nation’s capital,” she says. “Two memories distinctly stand out in my mind — VP Harris turning around, hand over her heart, giving the Heralds a nod after her entrance at the Capitol, and chatting with the profoundly kind and gracious Tom Hanks. I’ll never forget him turning to me and saying, ‘Isn’t it amazing all the places we get to see and things we get to do.’”
“We are incredibly proud of these School of Music alumni for serving their nation not just on Inauguration Day, but every single day as members of the military,” says School of Music Dean Tayloe Harding. “They are fantastic examples of the School of Music’s mission to transform lives through excellence in the work that they do as some of the finest musicians in the world.”