Virgin’s Branson leads high school band, provokes backlash

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Billionaire Richard Branson said it was an honor and a unique experience to don the uniform of a drum major and walk in front of a New Orleans high school band.

But some Catholic school fans were apparently less enthusiastic about Branson’s appearance on Thursday with the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 – the group that integrated an exclusive Mardi Gras parade. The group and Branson paraded to a new Virgin hotel in New Orleans as part of the opening ceremonies.

“I’ve had quite a few exciting experiences in my day, but I’ve never had (a) the chance to lead a marching band before – let alone the best marching band in the world,” Branson wrote. on his blog Friday. “What an honor to join the legendary group from St. Augustine High School for a performance in the streets of New Orleans.”

Aulston G. Taylor, president and CEO of the school, tweeted a letter late Sunday, grateful that many people told him that only students who deserved it should be allowed to wear the purple and gold uniform.

Others felt that “Sir Branson adorning our drum major uniform with honor through his millions of followers was great for the school and sets us apart as a global brand,” he wrote.

He said both views are valid.

He added that reporting on Friday’s event had brought in new contributors, both former students and “donors who had never seen or heard of us.”

It is also, he said, the start of “what we all hope will be a long term partnership … and which goes beyond an initial gift to school”.



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