When Ballou Senior High School in Southeast D.C. gets media attention, the coverage is rarely uplifting. Violence, vandalism, controversial administrative changes, financial scandals, laid-off teachers, and information regarding how most of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches are the normal topics. Tomorrow, however, will be different.
The Ballou marching band, the Majestic Marching Knights, will be strutting in the 2009 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Then at night, they will be bringing their funky horns, flag girls, and drumline approach to the new David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center.
When Ballou graduate Darrell Watson, who had played in the group, took over as the band’s director in 1995, the band had 20 members. This year’s squad is 77 strong and can play and move to ‘70s funk or current rap hits like Drake’s “Best I Ever Had.” Watson has turned the school’s musicians into a nationally recognized unit that took second place in the 2004 Home Depot National Battle of the Bands, visited the White House, and had a movie documentary made about them. On January 1, last year’s squad participated in the Rose Parade and survived having Ellen DeGeneres dance with them on her TV show. Thursday morning, look for them after the Ronald McDonald balloon.