Air Force band member to play in 2nd inauguration

Tech Sgt. Grant Langford plays in the U.S. Air Force band. He also mentors Dontrell Parson.
CBS News

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Looking ahead to the inaugural parade, we have a story of a saxophone player marching to the beat of his own drummer -- and the drummer hoping to follow in the saxophonist's footsteps.

The United States Air Force band has spent months rehearsing for Monday's inaugural parade, making sure those famous John Philip Sousa marches are pitch perfect.

Tech Sgt. Grant Langford has played saxophone in the band for five years. This will be his second inauguration.

"Nothing is more patriotic than marching and playing Sousa," he said. "As soon as the crowd hears it, you hear the cheers because people know that that's the American-almost theme song."

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This will be the band's sixteenth inaugural parade -- the first was for Harry Truman in 1949. So how hard was it to get into the band? "It's an audition process and it's very competitive," said Langford.

A new member can join only if someone leaves or retires. Unlike most military assignments, this one is permanent.

Before joining the Air Force, Langford spent eight years playing with top jazz bands including the Count Basie Orchestra. He even recorded a Christmas album with Tony Bennett. "I made the change because it was a great opportunity to continue my musicianship and to play and serve the country," he said.

Sgt. Langford also serves his community, volunteering in an Air Force mentoring program with 11-year-old Dontrell Parson.

"I just like the way his style is," Parson said of Langford. "He's a great guy. Everything seems simple when he is talking to me."

Asked if he would like to follow Langford's footsteps, Parson said: "Yes I would. I would be just like him, probably look like him too."

Does Parson dream of playing in the inaugural parade some day just like Langford? "Yeah," said Parson, "but it's gonna be a lot of work, so I'm gonna like dream it, then achieve it."

At a young age -- with someone to lead the way -- he now has the confidence to dream big.

  • Chip-Reid_bio_140x100_bw.jpg
    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.