News - HFCC Big Band Performs at Presidential Inauguration

In 2008, Americans made history by electing Barack Obama as the country’s first African-American president. Four years later we made history again by re-electing him for a second term. January 21 was a day full of joy, tears, and triumph as we officially swore in President Obama in his second inauguration. HFCC’s Big Band had the honor of performing at the celebration.
The jazz ensemble, along with singing group Midnight Blue, boarded a bus to Washington D.C. Sunday, January 20, and performed the following night at the Michigan Inaugural Ball in the National Museum of American History. This year’s inauguration marked the band’s fourth trip to such a prestigious affair, with past performances in 2009, 2005, and 2001.
Band director Rick Goward said he was flattered that the nation’s capitol had asked them to perform once again. The band’s performance became an inaugural tradition when a group of lobbyists in Washington discovered them.
“They heard us play, and we’ve been invited ever since,” said Goward.
This historical trip to Washington was the first for Midnight Blue members John Pegouski, Craig Lahiti, and Amy Kilpatrick. All of them have been in the ensemble for two years, and they were delighted to sing at the inauguration.
“This was an honor,” said both Pegouski and Lahiti said.
Kilpatrick exclaimed she was “really excited” she had gone.
Big Band member Ian Kushnir was also a first timer to the inaugural experience. The drummer is passionate about music, as he has been in the Big band for three years and has been a part of HFCC’s music program for 10 years. The 2006 HFCC graduate said this opportunity was “really cool.”
This year’s trip to Washington was nothing new for Midnight Blue singer Bonnie Schippling. Schippling has been a member of the ensemble for ten years and this was the third inauguration her and Midnight Blue have performed in.
“When we got to D.C. and we were walking past the White House...that’s when it actually hit me that we were really here,” said Schippling. “I was thinking ‘Whoa, this is awesome!’ But I was disappointed that we didn’t have a chance to go sightseeing.”
Before Schippling became a Wayne State graduate, she started her college education at HFCC. She has fond memories of the school, stating “Henry Ford gave me a lot of opportunities and I’ve made many important contacts.”
In addition to “Just My Imagination”, the Big Band performed 29 other songs as part of a Motown medley. Smash hits such as Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life”, The Jackson 5’s “ABC” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” were a few of the songs performed. Kevin Dewey, musical director for Midnight Blue, felt this was the perfect piece to play at the ball.
“This music was made in Detroit; it’s authentic,” said Dewey. “We wanted to represent the Motor City.”
The composer behind this amazing medley was the late David Van De Pitte who passed away in 2009. An arranger for Motown during the 1960s and 1970s, Van de Pitte worked with the likes of Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight.
Formed in 1981, the HFCC Big Band has grown to become popular not only locally, but globally. Their repertoire includes not only the inaugural balls, but also the acclaimed Carnegie Hall in New York City, and this past summer, they performed in France at the Jazz a Juan Music Festival, alongside Norah Jones and Bobby McFerrin.
HFCC wishes the Big Band many more years of fun and success.