Composer Julie Giroux on Her 'Integrity' Playing During 2021 Inauguration

Jan 19, 2021

On Wednesday, January 20th, at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, a 1st will be taking place. The first piece by a woman composer to be played during the inauguration ceremony itself.  The Marine Band has been playing every inauguration back through Thomas Jefferson. Their current conductor and commander, Col. Jason K. Fettig selected Julie Giroux’s “Integrity Fanfare and March” to be played as Kamala Harris walks up to the podium. But as Giroux told me the evening before the ceremony, her memory needed to be jogged.

Jamie Paisley: When it comes to the piece itself, the "Integrity Fanfare and March," that was about 15 years ago. Have you revisited just mentally [Giroux laughs] 'Cause I mean, that was a long time ago, still.

Julie Giroux: I know! No kidding, right? I mean, I write four-or-five hours of music a year. So, I mean, I can't even remember stuff I wrote this year. So, yeah, immediate I was like 'I'm going to go listen to that and see if it's a good piece,' because I didn't remember it at all. Not at all. And I played it back and I was like 'Okay. It's alright. You know, it's fine." And, uh, it's hard. And it's going to be cold tomorrow. And it's very difficult to play in the cold!"

JP: It's easy to play instruments in the cold - What do you mean?"

JG: [Laughing] Your lips freeze literally to the metal, you know what I mean? It's nasty, so I was thinking - Okay, ohhhh, but yeah, it's fine. That was actually commissioned by the Air Force for one of their anniversaries. [Editor's Note: The 60th Air Force Anniversary] So it's kind got that type of feel to it. 

JP: When Col. Fettig initially sent Julie Giroux the message that her piece was to accompany the first woman to be elected US Vice President to the podium, her wife had just started a 13 hour shift in a hospital and with the heightened concern that itself brings to the table, it underlined their need for good news, something that has been in short supply for many.

JG: You know, for us, this has been just such a year to not celebrate. Nothing good happening this year. Whether, you know, we were on pins and needles waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on whether you could be fired just for being gay or not, and we were already preparing an exodus if that passed; and COVID, and just one thing after the next. So I think for both of us, it's just been -- for ALL of us, in music, it's been really nice to celebrate something. 

JP: Having her Integrity Fanfare and March played at the inauguration isn’t even the first barrier Giroux has broken, in 1992, she became the first woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Direction, as well as being the youngest at the time to win that award, too.

JG: But it has been a whirlwind, and just out of the blue. I mean, I'm proud that they're playing it, you know? I come from a long line, every one of my - I had eight uncles, they all served in the military. My grandfathers both served. It is a long line of military people in my family. So, I'm proud that- you know, I didn't serve, but I'm proud that in this way, that I know they're all proud of me too. And, you know, my Dad died before he saw me win an Emmy, and he's not getting to see this, but... I know he'd be proud.

I mean, I would've wanted to be there.

JP: Yeah. Yeah.

JG: I mean, I would've wanted to be there. And if it hadn't've been for all this, I would have. Why not? I'd've flown out there. [Marine Band conductor, Col.] Jason [Fettig] would've gave me a chair somewhere, you know? I could've gone in with the band. I've gone in with the band to football games, you know? I mean, and if things had been normal, it would've- normally I just would have gone. But because they're not normal, and because it's COVID, and because it's rioting, and because it's like we're up here with overstimulation about everything. Yeah, it's just sad. It's sad that I can't go, but now my music will be there. And that's all that matters.

Composer Julie Giroux about her “Integrity Fanfare and March” to be played during the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris January 20th, 2021. More information about her online at JulieGiroux.org