Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson has said it was an honour and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to don a drum major’s uniform and march ahead of a New Orleans high school band.

But some of the Catholic school’s fans were apparently less enthusiastic about Sir Richard’s appearance on Thursday with the St Augustine High School Marching 100 – the band that integrated an exclusive Mardi Gras parade.

The band and Sir Richard paraded to a new Virgin Hotel in New Orleans as part of opening ceremonies.

“I’ve had quite a few exciting experiences in my time, but I’ve never got (a) chance to lead a marching band before – let alone the best marching band in the world,” Sir Richard wrote on his blog on Friday.

“What an honour to join the legendary St Augustine High School band for a performance through the streets of New Orleans.”

Aulston G Taylor, president and chief executive of the school, tweeted a letter late on Sunday acknowledging that many people have told him only students who have earned it should be allowed to wear the purple and gold uniform.

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

Mr Taylor said both viewpoints are valid.

He added that news reports about the event brought new contributors, both among alumni and “donors who had never seen nor heard of us”.

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