The presidential inaugural committee announced yesterday that 35 bands have been invited to play at this year's inaugural balls, but local musicians reacted angrily when they learned that only one local group -- Gene Donati Presentations -- is among them.
Four years ago, for President Reagan's first inauguration, three local bands were among the eight playing at eight inaugural balls.
Ensembles led by Peter Duchin, Lester Lanin and Pete Fountain are among those that will entertain at nine separate parties. Orchestras bearing such celebrated names as Guy Lombardo and Tommy Dorsey have also been invited.
Although the inaugural committee has asked many local musicians to play as backup musicians, some established orchestras will use no local substitutes.
"Local orchestras have been doing this thing for years now," says band leader Howard Devron, who has played for every inauguration since Dwight D. Eisenhower's. "This time, they are asking our musicians to play in some of the big-name bands. Why can't we be present with one of the big bands?" he asks.
John Buckley, a spokesman for the inaugural committee, says, "This committee has a firm dedication that the people traveling across the country have a chance to be entertained by the best talent available. We are able to woo impressive bands, and, given the competition of orchestras around the country, there were not many local bands that were finally chosen."
The Donati group, with about 110 musicians, is the largest local orchestra. Devron's group numbers about 15, as does the Sydney Seidenman Orchestra, which played at Herbert Hoover's inauguration.
Says Donati, "They are resurrecting bands that do not exist anymore, and we feel it is quite unfair. They are being made to look good by the local musicians without any accolades given to these musicians."
Others don't agree, including Robert (Buddy) Mautino, former administrator of the Music Performance Trust Fund, who was asked by the inaugural committee to find local talent to play for the imported bands.
"Although Tommy Dorsey, for example, is dead, his music lives through his name and the musicians that are performing it. Why shouldn't we use their music?" Mautino says.
A band may use its deceased leader's name with permission from the estate. "The band works out a licensing arrangement with the estate," says Wayne Hutchison of the Willard Alexander Agency, a talent-booking firm in New York. For example, only one band can call itself the Glenn Miller Orchestra, he says.
"It is a big phony deal for these bands to be engaged out of town when they are not real bands," says Sydney Seidenman Jr.
In 1981, the inaugural balls were coordinated by separate chairmen. This year, all are being arranged by Robert Jani, entertainment consultant for Disneyland.
"There will be two to four bands playing at each ball, so people over the course of an evening can be entertained by a number of top acts," Buckley said.
Ray Caldiero, current vice chairman of the inaugural galas and chairman of the galas in 1981, finds nothing unusual in this year's arrangements.
Hiring local talent to fill in "also occurred in 1981," he said, "and it just makes good economic sense because otherwise the inaugural committee could not afford to bring the bands in."
According to Caldiero, musicians playing at inaugural events are paid on a union scale. The rate for a four-hour engagement is $164 per musician, excluding rehearsal time, Devron said.
The D.C. Federation of Musicians has taken a more neutral position.
"We must recognize that this is a national event," says union president Robert D'Arcy, "with people coming from all over the country who want to hear these bands. We are proud our local musicians have the employment, but it is regrettable that they did not recognize we do have some orchestras here of very high quality."
At least one formerly local band has been invited -- that of Bob Cross, whose orchestra played at the Shoreham Hotel for many years and who was music chairman for the inauguration of President Nixon.
Cross, who recently retired as director of talent booking for Walt Disney World in Florida, assisted Jani in finding local backup talent.
So far, according to the musicians, six of Devron's musicians and six of Seidenman's have been asked to play in other bands. Donati has been asked to lend out 25 of his musicians, even though he will be performing himself.