All welcome! This year the United Way Campaign for Johns Hopkins University will kick off with a beat, and possibly a cancan step or two.
The place to be on Wednesday, Sept. 23, is the Homewood campus, where, starting around 11 a.m., the Peabody Marching Band and the Peabody Cheerleaders from Hell will march round the upper and lower quads, and in and out of several hallowed halls causing maximum disruption. The band and its accompanying cheerleaders will then process down the lower quad to arrive on the steps of Shriver Hall just before the stroke of noon.
"It is hoped that the Peabody Marching Band will act somewhat like the Pied Piper of Hamelin and draw people inexorably into Shriver," says Bob Sirota, university United Way campaign chair. "But just to be sure, we're offering free hot dogs to audience members after the kickoff."
The Peabody director knows from experience that Peabody-ites will go anywhere for free food, and he assumes that other Hopkins folks will be unable to resist the sizzle of hot dogs barbecuing under tents on the lower quad.
The Peabody Marching Band leads a somewhat subterranean existence. It makes mercifully rare appearances, usually only when there is a really good cause to support like United Way.
"You have to understand," says Sirota, "that the Peabody Marching Band is a very unique kind of ensemble. It serves as an outlet for the musician's deepest anarchistic longings. Every member of the band is free to express his or her individual personality."
These anarchic principles also carry over into the Peabody Cheerleaders from Hell. Most of the cheerleaders are drawn from the Peabody Opera Department. All shameless exhibitionists at heart, they see in cheerleading an excellent exercise in un-inhibition. The United Way Kickoff will enable them to run the full gamut of emotions from U to W.
The Peabody Marching Band and its cheerleading squad don't want to monopolize all the fun. All are welcome to follow the band with whatever instrument comes to hand.
The Peabody Marching Band will start off from the steps of Shriver Hall just after 11 a.m. to process round the quads, collect Provost Steven Knapp from Garland Hall and arrive back at Shriver at approximately 11:50 a.m. to play a set on the steps before leading folks inside. The Peabody Cheerleaders from Hell will cavort along with the band.
For those interested in the origins of the band, here's a little history. The Peabody Marching Band originated in the early '80s when the Mayor's Office decided to hold Baltimore's first-ever Thanksgiving Parade. The route of the parade led from the Homewood campus, down Charles Street, past Peabody and ended at the Inner Harbor. By various surreptitious negotiations, the Peabody Marching Band decided it would march to uphold the honor and civic responsibility of Peabody.
Thanksgiving morning dawned with gusts of freezing hail and sleet. At the 8 a.m. assembly time at Homewood, there was no sign of the Peabody Marching Band. The parade started and struggled bravely down Charles Street in the face of bitter blasts of gale-force winds that shredded banners and costumes. As it toiled along at a snail's pace, the parade became more and more spaced out, with large gaps in between each contingent.
One block north of Mount Vernon Place, the Peabody Marching Band, muffled to the eyebrows in hats, coats, scarves and even blankets, stepped out of a side street and joined a gap in the parade. The band members marched bravely to one block south of Mount Vernon, then detoured down Centre Street and were found five minutes later relaxing in the toasty warmth of the Peabody cafeteria. But in that three-block march, with Peabody musicians' true instinct for the spotlight, the band had managed to march into the nightly newscasts of all three local television stations.
"It's subversive behavior like that," says Sirota, "that makes the band a kind of phantom ensemble at Peabody. We don't normally let them appear in public."
So make sure you are at Shriver Hall at noon on Sept. 23 to join in! It's the Power of U that will really put the kick in kickoff.