Stephen Grindel took a liking to music as a 5-year-old when he started taking piano lessons.
By the time he hit the third grade, that interest stretched beyond the piano and turned to the trumpet.
Grindel, 20, the son of Michael Grindel and Lori Wasner of Richland, now studies trumpet at Northwestern University in Illinois and is the new drum major for the renowned Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps, which is made up of 150 musicians from across the country, as well as Japan, Holland, France and England.
He will lead the Corps in today's presidential inauguration parade in Washington, D.C.
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"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to be sure. Very exciting," Grindel said in a telephone interview with the Herald.
Academics and the Crusaders leave little time for fun, though he says he does love to hike the roads less traveled, play soccer and skate on longboards with his friends when time allows. He also performs with the jazz orchestra and jazz ensemble at Northwestern when he's not performing with the Crusaders.
"I do have a pretty full schedule with studying and 10 hours a week in rehearsals," Grindel said.
Grindel might be a more serious-minded young man than most other guys his age, and his sense of humor leans to the dry side, according to his mother, Lori Wasner.
"Stephen is somewhat of an old soul for a 20-year-old," Lori said. "He can't stand pop music (but) loves to listen to the old big bands."
She also remembers his love of music and performing in front of an audience emerged before he even started school.
"He begged us to take piano lessons when he was in kindergarten," Lori said. "He started trumpet at Jefferson Elementary, and with talent shows and concerts he just seemed to be comfortable on a stage. I always took Stephen and his brother Jeff to plays and musicals, and he always played in the orchestras for the musicals.
"When he was a senior, his friends talked him into trying out for "How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying." He played Wallie Womper and that was a fun change for him."
Grindel is a 2011 Hanford High grad and has been a member of the Boston Crusaders for about four years. His duties as drum major for the Corps require wearing many hats.
"As drum major, I bridge the gap between the membership and the Corps administration staff," he said. "I also put the Corps to bed at night and wake them in the morning. Most importantly, the drum major is the face of each respective organization."
That includes answering questions from the public.
"The drum major is often the most recognizable face to the fans, because unlike the marching members, who conceal their identity behind their shakos (hats), the drum major removes his to address the audience at each performance."
The Boston Crusaders was the only International Drum & Bugle Corps invited to march in the parade, which includes a procession of ceremonial military regiments, citizens' groups, marching bands and floats, Grindel said.
The parade is expected to start after the official swearing-in ceremony of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, which is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. The inauguration will be telecast on all major networks today, but it's unclear which stations will include the parade.
The inaugural parade has been part of American tradition since George Washington was elected the first president in 1789. That event was held in New York City, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies' website. The parade and swearing-in ceremonies moved to Washington, D.C., after Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1801.
African-American citizens first marched in the parade at Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration, and women first participated in 1917 at Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. Warren G. Harding was the first president to ride in the procession in an automobile, and the parade was first televised in 1949 when Harry S. Truman was inaugurated. Jimmy Carter was the first president to walk in the parade at his inauguration in 1977, along with his family.
Lyndon Johnson was in office the last time the Boston Crusaders were part of the inaugural parade.
The group has been kept in the dark about any specifics -- such as where they'll march in the parade -- because of security issues, Grindel said.
"We'll just arrive at a check point and be assigned from there," he said.